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January 31, 2014

City mulls future of Community Development Office

PLATTSBURGH — The City of Plattsburgh’s Economic Development Office was a hot topic in last fall’s campaign, when just about all Common Council and mayoral candidates vowed to fully restore the department.

Now, a month into office, the new council is trying to figure out exactly how to go about that mission.

“This is a really exciting time to be talking about this,” consultant Amy Bonn said at a recent council work session.

“I think the campaign really stirred up the pot.”

NO DIRECTOR

The presence of the Economic Development Office diminished after former Director Rosemarie Schoonmaker retired in late 2007. The office has remained opened, but a new director was never hired.

Duties, such as administering home-buying and improvement grants, were handled by the remaining staff or farmed out to other departments.

The three people working in the office have since moved to other city departments.

CITIZEN INPUT

Mayor James Calnon asked Bonn to help facilitate a discussion about the Economic Development Office and to sort out the department’s assets and its future.

Councilor Dale Dowdle (R-Ward 3) said that he had heard from many voters during the campaign about community development.

“You hear two things: what we don’t have and what we do have, and what we need to build on,” he said.

Councilor Michael Kelly (D-Ward 2) said he was concerned that the city was missing out on potential development because the office has been largely dormant.

“We need a plan, and we need to solicit information from the citizens because they have the best ideas, and it is our job to translate those ideas,” Kelly said.

BROADER OUTLOOK

Councilor Josh Kretser (D-Ward 6) said the city needs to make sure to get input from surrounding communities and other development agencies as they form their plan.

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