City Manager John Schneiger received preliminary approval Tuesday to pay someone to manage economic development in New Port Richey but not to add that person onto the city staff.
Instead, City Council members favored making the job a contract position.
They discussed the matter during a work session. Votes cannot be taken at work sessions, but City Council members can give direction and share their opinions. The position will need to be officially voted on.
The council approved the concept of hiring someone to spearhead economic development in August but with a few conditions, to pay for the position.
The idea came from Deputy Mayor Rob Marlowe on Aug. 9, who brought up the notion of creating a staff position to Schneiger said in an interview that he is not proposing that Greater New Port Richey Main Street be one of the responsibilities of the new job.
Schneiger said Tuesday that he was concerned about hiring someone onto the staff full-time due to discussion with department heads and “revenue uncertainties” in fiscal year 2012. So he was leaning toward contracting out the job.
The contract position could cost roughly $60,000 annually, Schneiger said in an interview, but he doesnt have a specific number.
Among other things, according to Schneiger’s proposal, the person in the new position would be responsible for the attraction and retention of businesses, neighborhood revitalization, marketing, liasing with businesses, business support groups and city staff and making progress on the city's “highly visible” development projects and public-private partnerships.
When discussing the position over the past month, Councilwoman Ginny Miller had been concerned that the city was paying so much attention to its downtown that it was neglecting its blighted neighborhoods. She said the city needed to bolster its code enforcement officer roster to address some of these problems.
Schneiger had said he would add emphasis on neighborhood revitalization and that the city could apply to the county for federal Community Development Block Grant funding for a code enforcement officer job. The council was favorable toward the idea Tuesday. Right now, the city police department only employs one code enforcement officer.
After seeing a refined, but still preliminary, description for the job, she said Tuesday that she “became convinced” that the development director job was important. In fact, she wanted to see if the person hired could work for the city every day. Schneiger said the person in the job probably wouldn’t work a 40-hour week.
Marlowe said he was “not as concerned about the mechanics” of whether the economic development chief was a contract or staff job. He was more concerned about having someone to ”bird-dog” new businesses into the city.
Mayor Bob Consalvo said he was wary of adding a staff job to the city in a bad budget year.
"I would be more comfortable contracting that out," he said
Councilwoman Judy DeBella Thomas also favored contracting out the job.
The general fund budget, projected last week to total $18.2 million, dominated the rest of the session. The Council gave staff permission to lay off a development director, a salaried staff person who works on a variety of projects. The position earns $57,000 annually, including benefits.
Council members said they wanted to maintain two part-time receptionist positions, which cost $22,000 combined, in the City Hall lobby.
The City Council voted the week before to reject a proposed 36-percent hike in the due to overwhelming public opposition, which would have saved the city more than $78,000. The Council also learned that week that the general fund budget had ballooned by $2.2 million, due mainly to new accounting that showed expenses from the city’s red light camera program are higher than previously projected.
A second public hearing on remaining budget issues is scheduled for Sept. 27.