Since Oneonta's downtown developer, Jeff House, has not abided by the reporting requirements in his 15-month contract that expires at the end of next month, we have to ask, why hasn't he and why haven't the mayor and Common Council done anything about it?

We say it's past time that, if the city needs a downtown developer, the position be filled by someone other than Jeff House and made a city employee job with appropriate supervisory oversight.

House should have submitted six written reports by now, according to the terms of his contract, which was approved by aldermen Feb. 20, 2007, retroactively dated to Feb. 1, 2007.

With pressure mounting in recent years to get more direct control over the position, the Common Council early last year asked for proposals for the position, which House had held since it was created in 1998.

House's proposal was chosen over two others, but the mayor and aldermen agreed to include more-specific goals, requirements and benchmarks in the new contract.

One stipulation was that "The downtown developer will make bi-monthly written reports to the mayor, community development director, Finance, Operations and Legal Affairs Committee and will make oral reports to the Common Council.''

But, House has submitted at least two and maybe three written reports to the city, Mayor John Nader said, although he could find only one. The former and current Finance Committee chairmen said they have not seen any reports.

Nader agreed that House has fallen short on the reports, but defended his overall performance, saying that House has done "a ton" of work on the former Bresee's building project and is active in other areas.

The trouble is that without the written reports there is no way to keep track of whether the numerous other goals and benchmarks of the position are being met.

For his part, House said he has given "three or four" oral presentations to the Common Council at the mayor's request and that he thought he was fulfilling the reporting terms of his contract, which pays House $52,500 plus $2,300 for travel expenses for the 15 months.

With the contract due to expire April 30, there have been no Common Council discussions of how to proceed. But with at least three more downtown retail sites soon to become vacant, now is the time for city leaders to decide how to get a better grip on the developer job.

Under the contract system, it is clear that it is difficult for alderman and committees to keep a close watch on whether the developer is doing what needs to be done.

The council does have several new aldermen, so perhaps they can take it upon themselves to make sure a new contract is lived up to.

Or, they could make the next developer a city employee, answering to the community development director or some other department head for leadership and more-routine evaluation.

What is without doubt is that the situation needs to change _ and time is running out.

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