Council proposes de-funding economic development position

The consensus among the Common Council members at a budget meeting Wednesday night was to eliminate the $45,000 budget line for the Community and Economic Development Director’s position which is currently held by Robert von Hasseln. Alderwoman Valerie Beekman was the only member to state opposition to the decision.

“What we need to do is start cutting out here,” said Alderman Ron Barone. “I think you’ve got [Amsterdam Industrial Development Agency], you’ve got a county IDA, you’ve got an economic development department in the county that’s probably ten times bigger than the city, and what does [von Hasseln] do?”

“It’s duplication of services,” said Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler. “You’ve got AIDA, you’ve got the county IDA, you’ve got Ken Rose with economic development down there and then you’ve got Rob. Rob does not have the knowledge or experience Ken Rose has.”

Hatzenbuhler claimed that some developers had gone to Montgomery County for assistance instead of the city because von Hasseln lacked certain qualifications. After the meeting, she took back the statement and clarified that her understanding was that the Concordia senior living developers and the owners of the downtown hotel both sought out assistance from the county that neither von Hasseln or AIDA could provide.

Hatzenbuhler said she would be in favor of restoring von Hasseln’s $5,000 annual salary for his position as the City Historian, which was removed so that he would not draw two salaries from the city when he took the CEDD position in 2012.

Reached for comment after the meeting, Mayor Ann Thane said the decision was “short-sighted and disappointing.”

“This position is necessary to meet the unique needs of small business and local enterprise. The tasks performed by the CEDD are critical to the revitalization of our downtown and waterfront. Mr. von Hasseln has successfully secured hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants and coordinated projects and events that greatly benefit our city.”

In regards to the issue of duplication of services, Thane said, “[Montgomery County] and AIDA have both indicated that they would not be picking up these functions should the position be eliminated.”

Council members have until the end of the month to finalize and officially vote on their changes to the budget.

Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of Anthem Websites Inc. which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.