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Proposed Ogdensburg economic development hire takes a back seat to city manager search

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The addition of an economic development director to Ogdensburg’s city staff has been delayed by the continuing search for a new city manager.

Mayor William D. Nelson, who made the proposed hire part of his platform for re-election in November, said the position may not be created at all.

“We put money in the budget. We didn’t actually state whether it is a position or it is a firm that is going to do it,” he said Thursday. “We put money in the budget for economic development, now that the dust has settled, we’ll bring it up for discussion.”

When the City Council was drafting its 2012 budget in December, Mr. Nelson requested an additional $35,000 in general fund spending be included in the 2012 budget to hire an economic development director for the city.

“We eliminated the position a couple of years ago to save money and it has not been a success,” he said at the time.

Outside of discussing how $70,000 for two economic development studies may best be used, the subject of economic development was lost in the shuffle, Councilor Wayne L. Ashley said.

“I think we kind of got sidetracked on other issues,” he said.

Indeed, most council members want to get the hiring of a new city manager out of the way before taking up the economic development issue, Councilor Jennifer Stevenson said.

“At this point the city manager is the priority, and then a team that she can help build,” Ms. Stevenson said. “The problem is, we could start going in too many directions. A city manager is a big priority and you can’t rush.”

Any new hires would have to work with the new city manager, Councilor Daniel E. Skamperle said.

“You have to allow the new city manager some room to operate,” he said. “It is a good opportunity for him to build his own staff.”

With Mr. Nelson and other council members setting a six-month goal for the city manager hire, it might not fill the economic development position this year.

Deputy Mayor Michael D. Morley said the city doesn’t necessarily have to make a hire.

He proposed sharing the position with the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority and allowing one person to lead economic development for both the city and the agency.

“If we paid part of his salary, there might be a way to share the position with the Bridge and Port,” he said. “It just seems reasonable and logical that the state would fund some of that and consider shared services between municipalities and agencies. I know they are paying out for agencies and communities that are sharing services.”

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