Years ago, a good government study funded by Northwest Indiana industry recommended a number of innovative approaches to shared government services. The study implored separate levels of government and communities in Lake County to work together, share and consolidate various services for cost savings.
If city, town and county levels of government are looking for a playbook for this sort of cooperation, they can look to a partnership between two local institutions of higher learning.
Last week, the State Budget Committee gave the green light to a $45 million plan to rebuild Tamarack Hall at Indiana University Northwest in Gary. But the university won't be the only beneficiary of this new building, and millions of dollars in savings are being realized because of it.
The planned 106,065-square-foot academic building will be shared by IUN and Ivy Tech Community College students, satisfying a need both institutions had for additional classroom space.
Planners from both institutions determined that sharing the space will cost less than building separate structures at separate campuses -- cheaper by about $8 million by their estimates.
This innovative plan follows the 2009 approval by state lawmakers for $53 million in IUN and Ivy Tech classroom buildings in Gary. That money was sidelined, however, when the economy went south.
The original Tamarack Hall at IUN was demolished last year after being ruined in the massive 2008 flooding that plagued the region.
The wise plan between IUN and Ivy Tech to share a building -- at an overall lower price -- put the project back on track.
This sort of cooperation is a refreshing contrast to the fiefdom mentality that seems to permeate the rest of the region. Stubborn desires for each municipality to maintain control over every little facet of government often mean better deals for taxpayers are overlooked.
It seems the two institutions of higher learning are living up to their billing as places of enlightenment.