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December 19, 2014

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Government:

Councilman: Las Vegas, North Las Vegas sharing services makes sense because ‘we are all one’

The Las Vegas City Council today signed on to an agreement with North Las Vegas meant to increase collaboration between the two cities.

The issue: Las Vegas considered an interlocal agreement to explore areas where the city and North Las Vegas can share services to improve efficiency.

The vote: Approved 6-1, with Councilman Bob Beers in opposition.

What it means: Pending the approval of the North Las Vegas City Council tonight, the two cities will begin working together more in an attempt to boost the fortunes of both.

The partnership is the culmination of several months of behind-the-scenes discussions between the mayors of both cities.

For the next six months, staff from both cities, a panel of community members and former Clark County Manager Thom Reilly will explore at least 10 areas in which services or functions can be shared between the two governments, including economic development, redevelopment, finance and information technology.

The ultimate goal, Las Vegas City Manager Betsy Fretwell said, is to find ways to cut costs, generate new revenues and improve the delivery of government services.

For instance, officials say that by pooling their purchasing power, both cities could realize big savings when shopping for supplies, vehicles or equipment.

The two cities already share jail services, with North Las Vegas inmates being held at the Las Vegas Detention Center since 2011. The agreement allowed North Las Vegas to close its jail facility, which saves North Las Vegas $11 million per year, and Las Vegas earns about $6 million extra per year — a mutually beneficial model officials hope to replicate with other services.

Any specific recommendations would be presented next summer and would require further approval from each city council.

The City Council warmly greeted North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee when he presented to them Wednesday morning.

Councilman Ricki Barlow said the two cities should have partnered up years ago to find ways to be more efficient and better serve their constituents.

“This conversation about regionalizing our communities has been a back-room conversation for many many years. I applaud you for bringing this to the forefront because this is exactly how we should be thinking as elected officials,” Barlow told Lee. “North Las Vegas is tied to Las Vegas. Las Vegas is tied to Clark County. Clark County is tied to Henderson. We are all one.”

North Las Vegas stands to benefit from the agreement in several ways. The new city manager, city attorney and chief financial officer will have a chance to work with Las Vegas staff and glean new practices or procedures that could help North Las Vegas.

Any potential cost savings or increased revenues also are important to the financially troubled North Las Vegas, which had an $18 million budget deficit last year and was dogged by rumors of a state takeover in 2011.

Las Vegas’ budget outlook could also benefit from sharing services, but more important for the city is having a healthy neighbor to the north.

“We can’t operate in a vacuum here. We can’t just look at our boundaries and pretend like nothing around us is going to impact us,” Fretwell said.

Councilman Bob Beers cast the lone vote in opposition to the agreement, citing concerns that it didn’t address the fundamental financial issues contributing to North Las Vegas’s budget deficit.

Beers also was concerned that Las Vegas employees would be distracted from their normal work.

“I’m deeply concerned there’s not an equitable relationship here. I don’t believe that we have people sitting around the city manager’s office on their hands looking for things to do,” he said. “I’m concerned that we’re to the point with North Las Vegas that this is a Band-Aid on a broken leg.”

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