A position that was left unappointed by Mayor Michael Villa and defunded by the common council two years ago has been reinstated in Villa’s proposed 2018-2019 budget. The job of community and economic development director was held by current City Historian Robert von Hasseln from 2012 to 2016, and was cut with the reasoning that it was a duplication of the services provided to the city by the Montgomery County Business Development Center and the Amsterdam Industrial Development Agency.
Villa explained on Wednesday that he has included the $67,000 salaried position in his proposed budget in response to advice given to him by state and regional leaders as a move that may increase the city’s chances at securing the coveted $10 million, New York State Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant.
Referring to the past two years that Montgomery County has applied for the grant on the behalf of the city, Villa said, “The first one we lost, the second one we lost. So we had to sit down and one of the critiques was that we did not have a point person employed by the city to carry projects forward.”
Although he declined to name specific individuals or departments, Villa said that he received the same advice from multiple sources at the state and within the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council, that although the city has great projects, private investment, and shovel-ready sites, it still lacks a dedicated city official to see the projects through.
Villa noted the apparent contradiction between the state’s push toward sharing services, and the advice given to appoint a dedicated position, even with the services of the MCBDC and AIDA available to the city. He added that splitting the cost of the position with AIDA was also not feasible.
One task that Villa said would be a job for the new director is to update the city’s comprehensive plan, a document that was last updated in 2003.
“I’m going to take their advice and try to convince the council,” said Villa. “We have not had a comprehensive plan since 2003. I’m not going to be here forever…We need to set a path for future 10, 12, 15 years down the road to carry this work forward.”
“We need a point person that’s going to be able to identify projects, identify grants that are available, identify brownfield areas, and lure people in to develop them,” said Villa.
Villa said he does not yet have anyone specific in mind for the job.