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.”
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.
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.
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.
“This needs to be regional,” he said.
Councilor Becky Kasper (D-Ward 5) said the city should take advantage of the resources that SUNY Plattsburgh has to offer in developing marketing plans.
She also said they need to come up with a comprehensive strategic plan for all aspects of city life.
“We need to do an overall strategic plan first and look at everything — funding, staffing — and community development needs to be a piece of that larger plan,” she said.
Councilor Rachelle Armstrong (D-Ward 1) agreed that the city needs to establish a plan but is concerned about missing out on more opportunities.
“Aren’t there some grants we can go for while we are doing a strategic plan?” she asked.
“Can’t we do both?”
City Engineer Kevin Farrington said his office has received a $37,000 grant to do a comprehensive plan for the city.
Farrington said having that is imperative, as state and federal agencies will be more receptive to grant applications if they know the city has a long-range plan.
“Comprehensive plans are so important because funding agencies need to know the community is behind the plan,” Farrington said.
“If you don’t have a plan, they won’t take you seriously. You have to put your money where your mouth is.”
Bonn and Farrington agreed to get together to look into formulating a long-term plan for the city with ideas of how the future of community development will unfold.
Councilor Paul “Crusher” O’Connell (D-Ward 4) said he is leaning toward eventually hiring a director to run the Community Development Office.
Calnon said the future of the Community Development Office is critical.
“I am hoping we can come up with a clear consensus on what kind of outcome we want for the Community Development Office, and once we know, we can talk about how best to get it,” Calnon said.
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