Arlington's joint school-city effort shows promise

ARLINGTON -- As meetings go, it was simple: five items on the agenda, 47 minutes long.

But Wednesday's joint session of Arlington's City Council and school board held the promise of partnerships that could save taxpayers money.

"We have collaborated on many things many times informally," Mayor Robert Cluck said. "This will make it more formal and easy to handle. We needed to reorganize."

Current joint projects include the public libraries in schools program, the fire academy and water treatment internships for high school students, and the transformation of the city's vacant Girls Inc. building into a center for programs for at-risk youths.

The school district is renovating the building at 600 New York Ave. and hopes to have it ready for 575 students in September.

Potential partnerships could include a Canon Print Center similar to the one the city operates with the University of Texas at Arlington. Another might involve fleet services for the city's 960 vehicles and the district's 453 units, especially one to buy diesel fuel together to get a better rate. The school district has already spent about $900,000 on diesel this year.

Finally, a wish list of possible projects was discussed and proposed, from electrical pricing and consolidating communications services to grounds maintenance and technology sharing.

"I'm very happy about how it went," school board President Peter Baron said. "We're coming away with just a slew of new ideas."

Trustee Aaron Reich was credited with spearheading the joint meeting. Another is tentatively planned in six months, Reich said.

Will the meetings yield sweeping changes in the way the two entities do business, or are they simply a conduit for money-saving joint strategies?

"What I see is the latter being the initial start, item by item and project by project," Reich said. "It's way too early to focus on the outcome."

Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657

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