Press-Republican

February 5, 2013

Planner idea resurfaces

By DENISE A. RAYMO
Press-Republican

---- — MALONE — Franklin County is hiring a consultant, using $45,000 in grant funds, to help determine the structure, staffing and necessity of a county planning office.

Requests for proposals will be accepted until Feb. 21, a person will be hired a month later, and the final report is to be ready within six months.

The County Legislature was awarded just $11,000 of the $55,000 grant it applied for about five years ago to study planning.

A municipal survey conducted in 1999 found 70 percent of the respondents wanted a county planner, and similar results were achieved in a 2009 survey.

Legislators initially thought County Industrial Development Director John Tubbs could do the legwork to determine the wisdom of the hiring a county planner, but instead County Manager Thomas Leitz said he would take on the task.

After more time elapsed, the county learned there was money left in the State Department of State program and reapplied for funds, recently securing additional money. And the decision was made to bring a consultant on board. 

Legislators feel a planning department should be studied because “Franklin County is concerned that — due to the lack of coordinated economic-development-planning capacity — items of significant importance to county taxpayers are not being addressed,” the proposal states.

That fact “prevents the county and its municipalities from taking advantage of the available array of grant-funded opportunities.”

SEVEN QUESTIONS

Municipalities that can afford it hire individual consultants, but that “is often costly, and it does not provide the cohesive planning and inter-municipal coordination required for effective long-range community and economic development,” the proposal states.

The successful candidate would work with a steering committee to answer seven crucial questions: 

▶ What types of services would a planner or planning office provide? 

▶ Would the county have to create a separate department? 

▶ How much would it cost to provide countywide services? 

▶ Would municipalities save on consulting fees by using a county person instead of outside consultants? 

▶ What management efficiencies could be gained? 

▶ What grant-funding opportunities have municipalities lost because they had no money or help to apply for them? 

▶ What community or economic development ideas should the county ignore?

SURVEY TO GAUGE NEEDS

The steering committee will include a legislator, town supervisors and village mayors, who will be kept informed and updated by Leitz.

A survey on existing planning activities and how they are financed will be done “to gauge municipal needs that should be incorporated in the study,” the proposal states.

The person hired will then look at planning in comparable counties in the Northeast, including office structure, staffing, budgets, revenue sources and services offered.  

From there, the consultant would suggest options with cost estimates and generate a feasibility study of the advantages and disadvantages of offering county-wide planning services, including costs or savings to taxpayers.

If necessary, the person would also help the county apply for state funding.

The bid proposal is available on the county’s website under purchasing/bids at www.franklincony.org.

Email Denise A. Raymo: draymo@pressrepublican.com