Among governmental agencies, Team Springfield is something of a rarity: a gathering of multiple agencies having jurisdiction over the same geographical area to help coordinate activities and collaborate for the overall benefit of the public. The Chief Executive Officers of the Team Springfield agencies visited with City Club on December 15 to explain what the team is and how it works. At the session were Nancy Newton, Springfield City manager, Michael Wargo, Superintendent of Willamalane Park and recreation District, Todd Hamilton School District 19 Superintendent and Jeff Nelson, Superintendent of the Springfield Utility Board.
Team Springfield was formed in 1999 as an outgrowth of the visioning exercise called Springfield Tomorrow initiated by the City and involving all the governmental agencies. Since 1999 both executives and elected members of the agencies have met periodically to plan and coordinate on many projects. That 20-year history served the community well when the pandemic struck in 2020. Faced with the challenges of dealing with closures and services challenges, the leaders of Team Springfield stepped up and began weekly coordination to provide the public with common and consistent messages about how local governments were dealing with pandemic issues, as well as coordinating their activities as best they could to assure continuity of public services in the face of lockdowns and the other mandates that were imposed to fight the pandemic.
This level of coordination included developing means to respond to new mandates from the Governor’s office, sometimes when the agencies had less that 48 hours to implemented actions, the Teams Springfield agencies were still able to develop common approaches and language to assure that the public and agency personnel got consistent and sensible messages.
Much effort was also devoted to increased partnering on programming. As one example, the partners arranged for funding so that children outside the City could still receive library cards without cost to them or their parents. The agencies were also able to continue the 1Pass summer program which funded free transit cards for students to many summer activities. They also worked together to establish a public equestrian trail on property owner jointly by several of the agencies in the victim of Clearwater Park.
Recruitment continues to be a major issue particularly for Willamalane and School District 19. Most of the Willamalane positions that deal directly with the public and program participants are low paying jobs which compete with fast food companies on wages. The difficulty recruiting for these positions has forced cutbacks in some programs.
The School District faces a different problem. Before the pandemic over 30- percent of the teaching staff was eligible to retire. Many left the profession as the pandemic worsened and the district does not have a p8ipleing for recruitment from local colleges. Instead of hiring people as substitute for two years before putting them on permanent staff, the district now hires directly out of school when it can and recruits out of state as well as locally.
The agencies are continuing to work on local projects. SUB is under construction with a new substation in Glenwood to support the City’s efforts to expand development there and is working on constructing a new water treatment facility in eastern Springfield at a site adjacent to School District property as well as planning to perfect its existing water rights to the McKenzie River. SUB is also continuing to move toward supporting advance telecommunications in Springfield. In addition to using its dark fiber to support local hospitals and schools, SUB has initiated a net neighborhood project to test other providers ability to use facilities to provide improved broadband access to two neigho9rhoods in Springfield.