Niagara Gazette

December 2, 2012

Grandinetti: Development department merger makes sense

Staff reports
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — A member of the Falls City Council is proposing merging city departments to deal with current budget woes.

Councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti is proposing the Community and Economic development departments be merged to create a streamlined approach for city development.

Last week, the council made several cuts to 2013 Economic Development budget, including the elimination of the Economic Development director, Business Development director, and Economic Development professional positions, and did not overturn Mayor Paul Dyster’s elimination of the tourism marketing manager.

Grandinetti, in a release, noted the staff cuts, in addition to the ongoing dispute between New York state and the Seneca Nation of Indians over casino revenues are negatively impacting the city’s future economic strategy.

“These are hard times, and all the more reason to have a clear strategy for business attraction, housing development, and tax base growth,” she said. “We need to do more with less, so let’s start right now.”

Under Grandinetti’s plan, both departments would merge under Seth Piccirillo, current director of Community Development, at a zero salary increase. The staff would be located at the Carnegie Building to serve as a “one-stop shop” for everything from small business loan requests to residential home renovation projects.

The change would reduce administrative costs, maximize the use of the Carnegie Building, justify going after grants funds to repair and preserve the historic building, and reduce city hall utility and maintenance costs for Room 17, Grandinetti said.

Most importantly, she added, the new approach creates a single effort including partnerships with the Niagara County Center for Economic Development, New York state, and allows the city to make future personnel decisions to meet cross-functional needs and save money in the process. Other cities, including Syracuse, New York and Seattle, Washington, have adopted similar models.

“In today’s government, shared service is the way to efficiently save money. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has made consolidation a top priority and it makes financial sense across the board. When we have an opportunity to be innovative, we should take it,” Grandinetti said. “Despite our current difficulties, I think all of the council members understand the financial importance of economic growth. We need to get through the 2013 budget and develop a solid strategy for bringing in more development at the same time. This new department will help us, and this idea should be executed right away.”