Learning to share

Local officials seek ways to work together on goals, services

By HANNAH JOHNSON – Stillwater Gazette

City, county and school officials gathered Thursday morning with one major goal in mind: sharing.

Officials flooded the Independent School District 834’s Central Services building from Stillwater, Bayport, Lakeland, Lakeland Shores, Grant, Hugo, Washington County and the Stillwater Public Library. The group discussed ways for each entity to come together and work toward common goals and sharing services.

ISD 834 invited local organizations and city officials to discuss potential partnerships after its Community Education department recently discussed ways to provide recreational learning across the ISD 834 boundaries.

"We got together to brainstorm some potential partnerships to enhance efficiencies," said Lori Brink, community education director.

The school district offers several of its district facilities for recreational use, but Brink said district staff has discussed working with local cities to compile an "asset inventory" of all sports fields, gymnasiums or other sports facilities in the St. Croix Valley for public use.

"We’ve talked that it would be nice to have a dashboard of all assets so that we can have some coordination," Brink said. "Like if one of our fields got rained out, then what would we do?"

The district will look at ways to work collaboratively with other entities on some regional scheduling and asset inventory.

One way the district has already started working collaboratively has been with the Minnesota Special Olympics, which takes place at the Stillwater Area High School June 21-23.

"That’s an event that might not have happened if the school district was doing this by itself," Brink said, adding that the district has been working with the Greater Stillwater Chamber of Commerce. "This is one example of how we work together."

The school district isn’t the only one seeking to work together. Last year the Greater Stillwater Chamber of Commerce held a Community Symposium where area officials from the county, Bayport, Lake Elmo, Oak Park Heights and Stillwater gathered feedback from each community about the region’s economic needs.

"It’s about asset sharing," said Todd Streeter, executive director of the chamber who spearheaded the Symposium.

Stillwater City Councilman Doug Menikheim said the group needs to be strategic in planning local events and city initiatives so that city projects aren’t overlapping.

"I think this is at the tactical level, but I think we need to raise this to a strategic level," Menikheim said. "This is new territory."

Menikheim said that Stillwater is in the middle of constructing a new armory with the potential for an attached fire station and new gymnasium. He also said the area could use a regional coordinator.

"We need an event coordinator to deal with the big picture," Menikheim said, adding that the area recently had the Rivertown Art Festival downtown Stillwater, the Tough Mudder event in Somerset, Wis. and a local organization had a fundraiser on the Andiamo.

Bayport Mayor Susan St. Ores said she would like area officials to create a committee to address the Asian Carp problem that could have negative effects on the St. Croix River.

"This is something we need to work as a team to know what to do," St. Ores said.

The group will meet again in August to discuss additional topics and next steps.