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Local opinion columnists

Combined efforts make Fairfield stronger

By From page A8 | May 05, 2013

There’s strength in numbers. That’s what we’re told, anyway.

In the aftermath of the Great Recession, the notion takes on a new meaning as local governments and private groups struggle to serve those who are most in need.

We’ve seen two public-private partnerships come to life in recent weeks, both in Fairfield. Both spring from a need to stretch available tax dollars as well as the coffers of numerous nonprofit groups. The result of both efforts is – or soon will be – a level of efficiency that best serves us all.

At-risk but not forgotten

First, the city and the Fairfield-Suisun School District are developing plans to use the shuttered Sullivan Middle School as a one-stop center for all things related to serving at-risk children and teens in our community.

The proposed youth services center would house several programs that are currently spread out around the school district’s many sites. It would also bring together related city and county programs that are currently found within the city. School resource officers and crime-prevention specialists will call the former middle school home, with the potential to house a full-time county probation office there. A part-time office is envisioned at the outset.

The Matt Garcia Youth Center and its Police Activities League programs would move in once the lease expires at its current site in 2017. Some programs could locate at Sullivan from the get-go since program space at the current Police Activities League location is limited.

The school district’s student services office would move there. The District Attorney’s Office could offer mediation meetings at Sullivan. Expulsion hearings could take place there.

Ultimately, various nonprofit organizations could call Sullivan home, so long as they serve students.

The plan is a boon to the neighborhood. No, the site will not house a traditional school – with all the perks and drawbacks that entails for nearby residents – but it’s a great deal better to have the school in use on a regular basis than it is to have it sit vacant, the target of vandals and a potential site for all sorts of unwanted activity.

There will certainly be a stronger police presence there once the Police Activities League moves in.

Sullivan, at 2195 Union Ave., was closed at the end of the 2011-12 academic year to cut the district’s costs, and sat essentially unused this school year. Once the proposed joint-use agreement is in place, the Sullivan site will have a new lease on life.

The facility, like any facility, costs the school district money to maintain even in an unused state. Time will also take its toll, ultimately to the point where minor upkeep will no longer ward off the need to tear the place down.

That would be a terrible waste of a vital public resource.

Members of the school board and council members gave the go-ahead on the plan during a joint meeting in February. School district trustees signed off on the plan April 25. The City Council will consider it soon.

I’m optimistic it will happen. That’s because I see no reason for it not to happen.

And justice for all

Another combined effort launched when the new Family Justice Center opened April 24 at 604 Empire St. in central Fairfield.

Victims of domestic violence go there for any number of services that would have required several stops prior to when the center opened its doors. Those services include help with emergency shelter, counseling, and help with obtaining domestic violence restraining orders.

The Family Justice Center was years in the making and brings together services offered by the county and by a number of nonprofit organizations, all designed to help victims of domestic violence.

It’s the 18th family justice center in the state and the 81st in the nation, according to Casey Gwinn, chief executive officer of the National Family Justice Center Alliance, who spoke at the Fairfield center’s formal opening ceremony.

The fact that these services are now under one roof means that victims of domestic violence can find what they need, when they need it, with the least possible amount of hassle.

This is yet another example of pooling resources for the common good.

Both joint projects are examples of the new reality of local government: They can no longer go it alone and must join with one another, and with community organizations, to provide essential services to those who need help.

It’s been a long time coming, and is a welcome change.

Reach Managing Editor Glen Faison at 427-6925 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GlenFaison.

Glen Faison

Glen Faison

Glen Faison joined the Daily Republic as managing editor in September 2009. He previously worked as a reporter and editor for daily and weekly newspapers in the San Joaquin Valley for 20-plus years. His experience includes time as editor of the Golden Eagle, a military paper serving the Lemoore Naval Air Station. He graduated from Fresno State University with a bachelor's degree in journalism and bleeds Bulldogs red. He is an avid fan of the NFL's Washington team, and attended the 1988 NFC Championship Game against the Minnesota Vikings at RFK Stadium. He's a member of the Fairfield-Suisun Twilight Rotary Club and a board member for the Solano County Library Foundation. He married his wife, Jill, in 2005, and has three children: Courtni, Tyler and Hayli.

Discussion | 3 comments

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  • MikeMay 05, 2013 - 6:53 am

    Measure C money spent on school site improvement for upgrades to classrooms and other buildings to house and educate students. I think the taxpayers are 'on the hoof' for the bond payment and we are not getting what we voted for. The school district closed Sullivan and created over crowding at the other middle schools. Now they are planning on expanding Suisun Valley, Laurel Creek, and other school sites, expending monies where an empty school sits unused (for education). Sullivan is being re-purposed and other schools are being 'added too', unbelievable.

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  • L.May 05, 2013 - 12:20 pm

    So, spend a bunch of money creating a complex web of varying services to deal with a presumably increasing problem of undesired behaviors from our youth that can be ultimately attributed in some measure to closed schools? Wouldn't it be cheaper to, oh I don't know, keep schools open? This scheme is going to cost a fortune, far more than they supposedly saved in closing these schools. Seventh grade is a critical time and in the case of girls their participation in these years are one of the best predictors of their future success in high school. All this chaos and mismanagement of our middle schools in these past two years will only allow kids to fall through the cracks and we will experience a bump in dropouts. I guarantee it. When it comes time to hold Jackie and the Board to account the city will be just as responsible.

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  • MikeMay 05, 2013 - 4:32 pm

    I totally agree L. I'm surprised the taxpayers association isn't all over this too. I'm sure they were opposed to the bond measure, but once passed, thought they'd be scrutinizing the money spent. Now, the money spent on improvements, aren't even benefitting the children's educational needs.

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