City council members discussed the reinstatement of the position of community and economic development director in Mayor Michael Villa’s proposed budget at a committee meeting last night. Members agreed unofficially to fund the $67,000 salary as they wrapped up their changes to the proposed budget which amounted to a small increase in the tax rate.
Both Alderman Chad Majewski and Alderman Jim Martuscello said they have had discussions with Villa in regards to a specific candidate for the position, whose salary requirements are reflected in the budgeted amount. They declined to name the candidate, citing ongoing negotiations. Martuscello said the candidate is highly qualified with good references from New York State officials.
Majewski spoke in favor of the position, echoing Villa’s comments last week that in order to increase the city’s competitiveness for the next $10 million New York State Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant, the city needs a point person to administer the grant with an office in city hall. He said that he has been attending meetings about the upcoming application, and believes the city’s chances of winning the grant are good.
“[Montgomery County], that’s putting the plan together, has a really aggressive plan for us and I think that this is the time to put this position in,” said Majewski. “We’ve identified a small section of downtown that we’d like to revitalize, some of the initial plans that I saw at the meeting last week was bringing route 5 back through the middle of the [former Amsterdam Mall]…bringing parking spaces down there, making our downtown a place where people can come to work, people can come to live, and they can come to be entertained and play. That’s the goal.”
Majewski said although the council agreed two years ago to de-fund the position, formerly held by City Historian Rob von Hasseln at a salary of $45,000, he believes the CEDD can help the city market its business opportunities, industrial park, and tourism more than what is currently being done.
“I think we just need to market ourselves a little bit better and let people know who we are, what we are, and what we can do and bring more paying jobs in here, more people who want to work, people who are fixing up their houses,” said Majewski. “If we have somebody that’s specifically focused on bringing that business here, business will continue to grow here in Amsterdam.”
Referring to the use of state grants, Martuscello said, “I see now that we need somebody that can focus individually on these large sums of money.”
“If the money is out there, then we want somebody in our corner that is highly qualified to speak on our behalf. So we’re going to send the best out there,” he added.
Majewski said that the possibility exists to share the position with Montgomery County, with work days alternating between city hall and county offices.
Also during the meeting, council members opted to transfer $50,000 less from the water fund balance to the general fund, which along with other adjustments resulted in a proposed .76% property tax rate increase over last year. Total flat user fees are proposed to decrease by .59% over last year.