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Canton boards settle on new staffing plan for economic development

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CANTON - Village and town officials have agreed that Linda M. McQuinn’s job title will switch from economic development director to community development director, a decision that comes after the two boards grappled for months with differing opinions about her job performance, duties and future of that office.

Meanwhile, the village has started advertising for a new full-time economic development director who will be paid between $45,000 and $50,000 a year, according to Mayor Mary Ann Ashley. The application deadline is Aug. 15.

The two positions will fall under one department that will be funded through a single economic development budget, the mayor said.

“It’s important to have an additional person working on moving our community forward. One person cannot do the entire job,” Ms. Ashley said Monday.

Deputy Town Supervisor Paul T. Backus said the village’s decision to increase its funding for economic development from $15,000 to $75,000 a year has allowed the village to assume a larger role in this area.

“The town put a boat load of money into this for a lot of years. Now the village wants to put in more money and do more. It’s long overdue,” Mr. Backus said. “For many years, the village was a minor player that wasn’t willing to contribute the same amount the town had.”

Time will tell whether the new setup is successful at bringing more business to the community, he said.

“We can run with this for awhile. We’ll see what happens,” Mr. Backus said.“If we don’t see any results, no movement, maybe we’ll go back to one position.”

The town has contributed $45,000 annually for the past several years and supports the work Ms. McQuinn has achieved, Mr. Backus said.

Some village board members have been critical of Ms. McQuinn for not focusing more on bringing retail and other businesses to the community. They would also like an economic development director to develop stronger relationships within the business community.

According to the published job description, the economic development director will be responsible for “implementing a comprehensive plan for business development and retention in a college and government community.”

Ms. McQuinn will be responsible for projects related to community development such as waterfront revitalization, housing issues, remediation of contaminated Brownfield sites and other projects.

Mr. Backus said the town, not the village, took the lead in redeveloping the old Canton bowling alley into Main Street office space. Ms. McQuinn was involved in grant writing for that project.

“The town board has supported Linda for the work she’s done. She has focused more on community development and we chose to keep her in a position like that,” Mr. Backus said.

Details about how much the town and village will each contribute to the department still have to be ironed out. Besides the village and town contributions, St. Lawrence University, SUNY Canton and United Helpers have in the past each contributed $15,000 a year as part of an economic development consortium.

Under the new structure, Ms. McQuinn will continue to be supervised by Town Supervisor David T. Button, while the new hire will be supervised by the mayor, according to an emailed statement from Ms. Ashley. The community development director job will be considered a town position, while the economic development director will be considered a village job.

However, Ms. Ashley said the plan is for both developers to work together to achieve the community’s strategic goals. A governance structure will be developed to prioritize initiatives.

Mr. Button and Ms. Ashley will be involved with both positions in terms of establishing priorities,

A hiring committee will be created to review applications for the economic development director job. The full job description can be accessed at the Canton website: www.cantonnewyork.us.

“I’m confident we’ll get a lot of applications. We’ve been strategic in our advertising for the position,” Ms. Ashley said.

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