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Ogdensburg Growth Fund’s new mission includes severing ties from City Council

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OGDENSBURG — As the Ogdensburg Growth Fund Development Corp. transitions to focus more on economic development, it has removed from City Council the power to appoint its members.

Previously it was the job of City Council to approve mayoral nominations to the fund’s board of directors, but a recent change in the organization’s bylaws calls for current board members to appoint future members, elect their own officers and approve the fund’s budget each year.

Members will serve four-year terms. City Manager and board member John M. Pinkerton said officials are hoping to boost the board from seven members to 11.

The current roster consists of Mr. Pinkerton, Mayor William D. Nelson, Samuel J. LaMacchia, Michael S. Brashaw, Dallas P. Sutton, Scott M. Wright and Gary Hammond.

“The members we have are excellent, but we need more horsepower,” Mr. Pinkerton said. “What we’re doing is we are trying to find more expertise and broaden our horizons by bringing on more talent.”

Mr. Nelson said he is excited by the potential to bring more people on board who want to see Ogdensburg grow.

“I see it as a positive,” he said of the membership changes. “We’re going to put in membership that is community-minded.”

Mr. Nelson said people who want to serve should contact one of the board members to be considered.

But as the Growth Fund splits from City Council, Mr. Pinkerton said, some concerns have been voiced about oversight.

Mr. Pinkerton said the Growth Fund has to report to the state Authorities Budget Office for audits on a regular basis now that it is controlling its own budget.

“There is oversight,” he said.

Some city councilors said they want to see the fund distanced further from the city.

“I would like to see the mayor and the city manager not on [the growth fund board] at all,” Deputy Mayor Michael D. Morley said, adding that besides the power to approve board members, the council has never had meaningful oversight.

“They’re not really under our jurisdiction to start with,” he said. “That’s the way it has been functioning.”

Mr. Morley said that the first he was really made aware of the Growth Fund’s new direction was in an article published in Friday’s newspaper.

Councilor Jennifer Stevenson said she also would like to see the mayor and city manager step off the board. Ms. Stevenson suggested that a representative from City Council could act as a liaison between the city and the Growth Fund.

Mr. Pinkerton said the fund is discussing the future of the city manager’s and mayor’s involvement.

The city will retain control over whether it chooses to sell city-owned properties to the Growth Fund as part of its business model in the future, Ms. Stevenson said, giving City Council some level of control.

The Growth Fund has proposed purchasing some city-owned homes acquired for back taxes, repairing them and flipping them to help revive the city’s tax base.

Going forward, Mr. Nelson said, the fund hopes to bring on staff as it becomes “the economic development tool for the city of Ogdensburg.”

Ms. Stevenson said she is encouraged by that desire and looks to see how the fund’s plan to reimburse the city for the use of its staff plays out.

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