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JCIDA plans office expansion to make room for agricultural coordinator

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The Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency plans to expand its headquarters at the Watertown Center for Business & Industry, making room for county agricultural coordinator Jay M. Matteson and part-time secretary Anna Hume.

The plan to repurpose the building at 800 Starbuck Ave. was discussed Thursday by members of the finance committee, who met to review the agency’s budget for the 2014 fiscal year.

Mr. Matteson, whose office is now at 21168 Route 232, likely will be moved into the expanded building by October, when the six-month lease for the Route 232 office space expires.

Mr. Matteson, who has been employed by JCIDA since 2000, previously oversaw the Jefferson County Agricultural Development Corp., which had a board of directors with governing authority. That subagency was dissolved earlier this year by JCIDA, and an agriculture council without governing authority was established to replace its board of directors. JCIDA’s decision to dissolve its subagencies was needed to comply with a ruling made by state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli in February 2012, which stated that employees affiliated with subagencies did not work directly for JCIDA and therefore were not state employees eligible to receive pension benefits. JCIDA terminated its employee contracts with subagencies to ensure its staff members remained eligible for state pension benefits.

Agency CEO Donald C. Alexander told the board that since the JCADC no longer exists, it makes better sense to have Mr. Matteson’s office based at the industrial center. He said the agency could decide to expand the office building or repurpose its conference room into an office space. Moving the agency’s headquarters to a new location, then leasing the space at the center also has been mulled as an option.

The agency has hired Aubertine & Currier Architects to design a number of options for expanding its office space. It has made a tentative plan to start paying off debt on the project during its 2014 fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1. It plans to pay $17,500 in annual debt service until the project is paid off.

Along with the two agriculture employees, the agency plans to hire a part-time accountant this year to assist Chief Financial Officer Lyle V. Eaton with daily operations. In addition, it soon will hire a marketing director to replace Mary Anne Hanley, who will retire at the end of August.

The agency plans to ask the Jefferson County Board of Legislators to allocate more funding for its agriculture program, which is expected to take in about $136,000 in 2014 from the county. Salaries and benefits for the program now account for a combined $128,000.

Mr. Alexander said he has discussed increasing the county’s annual funding for the agency’s agriculture and marketing programs with County Administrator Robert F. Hagemann III.

“Eventually, the county is going to put the agriculture marketing programs into one pot,” he said. “And eventually, we’re going to have to ask the county for more funding.”

The Jefferson County Job Development Corp., which formerly oversaw the agency’s marketing efforts, was replaced by a marketing council after its board of directors voted this year to dissolve. The dissolution process in state court for the JCJDC and JCADC is expected to be finished this year. Once completed, funding left over from those agencies will flow to Jefferson County.

The agency’s board of directors will make a final vote Thursday on the 2014 budget.

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