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Shared work program takes a step forward

After months of work, county and school staff members have come up with a logo and an acronym for proposed cooperative agreements they hope will cut duplication and save taxpayers money.

The proposal, called TWICE, stands for Together We Improve through Cooperative Efforts. It calls for the establishment of several committees to work on plans to share a host of services, from purchasing to parks to libraries.

"I think it's great," said School Board Chairman John Druzbick. "Now we can get back together and move on. Obviously the staffs have done a lot of work putting this together."

But the program concerned School Board member Stephen Galaydick, who said it could create more bureaucracy than it eliminates.

"I bet I can come up with a cute little name, but you probably can't print it," Galaydick said. "Why can't we just do it? Why do these people have to study it to death?" He said the report recommends the establishment of so many committees that it prevents employees from spending time needed to get their jobs done.

The program proposal, which bears the logo of two figures using the same rope to climb two sides of an orange triangle, contains eight projects and suggests forming committees to accomplish some tasks. It also includes a second phase with other suggestions as well as an interlocal agreement.

Some bureaucracy is necessary to meet legal requirements, said Jennene Norman, Hernando County's deputy administrator.

An interlocal agreement is required because of a state auditor general's opinion that such joint arrangements are illegal without one.

However, Norman stressed the program's advantages and the cooperative attitudes of staff members.

"Everyone has been excited," she said. "At first, it was, "We can't do this or we can't do that.' "

But after they talked, those attitudes dissolved. Staff members became eager to share ideas, Norman said.

The proposal is the result of a series of meetings between the School Board and the County Commission that began last summer. During the meetings, members of both boards targeted key areas for joint ventures, such as purchasing practices, libraries and parks.

Under TWICE, both boards would jointly buy paper, maintenance supplies, office supplies and gasoline. A staff committee would develop a plan to estimate how many supplies each group would need throughout the year, buy the supplies at bulk rates and store them in a warehouse.

"The team's mission would be to find as many like purchasing efforts as possible and to develop cooperative efforts for all areas," the report said.

Another project would create a joint committee of representatives from both groups' human resources departments. The committee would discuss common training needs and develop a cooperative training plan.

Another possible area of cooperation involves job postings. Under the proposal, the departments would electronically mail all postings to each other's departments.

As far as libraries are concerned, staff members are proposing a pilot program that would allow public library patrons to return their books to the library at Central High School. School library employees would stamp the books as returned, while public library employees would pick them up in the library's courier van while on its regular route between the main Brooksville library and the West Hernando/Staffordene T. Foggia Library on State Road 50.

Another library suggestion includes having public library employees get information about class assignments and coordinate materials to help students do their research.

The program would be overseen by a committee of representatives of the school library system, curriculum specialists and the public library.

Regarding parks, the report recommends establishing a committee of school recreation and county officials to coordinate the use of county and school parks by both students and the public.

The committee also would compile lists of park services so officials could better prepare for the construction of new parks.

Other ideas include having school bus drivers attend a training session by the county engineer's office to learn about traffic problems, and coordinating the purchase of traffic signals and markers that serve roads near schools.

The proposals will be presented to both boards at a joint meeting expected in late April, Norman said.