ONEONTA _ The future of the downtown developer position will be scrutinized by the Common Council on Thursday.

The position was vacated June 1 after Jeff House's contract _ plus a one-month extension _ expired. House had held the position since 1998.

The Common Council was poised to name a successor but opted instead to suspend the selection process after some aldermen questioned the two proposals, as well as the overall mission of the downtown developer.

Aldermen are slated to meet with Mayor John Nader at 11 a.m. in council chambers at City Hall.

While the city weighs its options, House, who was hired June 3 by the city as a housing rehabilitation specialist, is performing some of the duties he had as downtown developer, Nader said.

The options include re-advertising for the job; reallocating functions within the city's community development office; hiring a dedicated downtown developer as a city employee; and contracting out to a capable entity, Nader said.

Some aldermen on Monday floated the idea of contracting a company to perform an expanded scope of downtown development services.

"It's not a one-person job," said Third Ward Alderman Erik Miller. "We're looking for a lot more."

Miller said successful downtown development includes grant writing, design, marketing, land-use planning, business recruitment and other activities.

First Ward Alderman Maureen Hennessy said she has not made up her mind, but outsourcing to a company for a larger scope of services might be worth the greater expense.

"We have tried doing things with just one person," Hennessy said. "It may be time to go with a company."

Fourth Ward Alderman Mike Lynch said he would prefer the city fold downtown development duties into city government.

"My instinct is that job belongs within City Hall as a full-time job," Lynch said.

Contracting for downtown development services is a "faulty model," he said.

Lynch said he hopes the meeting touches on the city's goals and vision for downtown instead of focusing on whether a downtown developer should have a desk at City Hall.

"For six months, I've been clamoring for a conversation about priority and direction, and it's just not happening," Lynch said.

Dana LaCroix and Tom Harrington submitted proposals in May for the downtown developer contract, which has typically been renewed annually since 1998. House did not seek a contract renewal.

House's salary as a city employee is $38,500 plus benefits. He made $42,000 annually without benefits under his final downtown developer contract with the city.

Under his previous contracts, House was required to: recruit businesses to downtown, work with downtown property owners, businesses and the city to improve downtown, assist in efforts to obtain funding to support downtown development, and work to market and promote Oneonta, among other goals.

Nader said it is too early to tell what the next step will be, and it may take some time for the Common Council to weigh its options.

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