JURA Approves New Housing Position
The Jamestown Urban Renewal Agency approved a new housing position during its meeting last week, providing an opportunity for the city to address additional housing issues in the community.
Crystal Surdyk, city director of development said the city has been working to “put together some strategies” over the past couple years with partner agencies such as the Land Bank, the Chautauqua County Health Department and the Chautauqua Home Rehabilitation and Improvement Corp. Based on conversations with each of these agencies and internal conversations with the city administration, Surdyk said the Department of Development has been working to determine the “best path” for the city to take in order to address housing issues in neighborhoods throughout the city, which have increased in recent years.
“We have a monumental task when it comes to our housing issues,” she said. “It’s been an uphill battle, and we have some significant problems with housing, code enforcement, housing condition.”
In order to address the increase in housing and code enforcement issues, Surdyk and the Department of Development proposed a new position be approved to provide additional help for the over-burdened department. The new position would be a deputy director of housing and community development management position.
While Surdyk acknowledged that one suggestion raised in the past was to split the duties of the Department of Development into a department of housing development and a department of economic development.
“The Department of Development is really all development, and I feel very strongly that it doesn’t make sense to split it,” she said. “I don’t feel that it should be separated, I think there should still be a director of development, not two directors that are working separately from each other and very possibly in silos.”
Surdyk told members of the Jamestown Urban Renewal Agency that both economic development and housing and community development are “intertwined.” As a result, she believes the Department of Development needs to maintain a “really cohesive strategy and team” centered around both aspects of development.
“Even though they seem like different things, they’re not so different,” she said.
According to Surdyk, the new deputy director position would be “similar” to the current economic development coordinator position held by Stephanie Wright; however, she said the position would require additional responsibilities due to the “complex” nature of the city’s housing issues.
“We really want to look at policies,” she said. “We’ve been working on some ordinances, and I think that to attack housing and the issues that we have with housing, it has to be a very multi-pronged approach, and so this position will free me up to do all of the things better and not have to be so involved in the nitty gritty, to be more of a manager versus the person doing the stuff.”
While Surdyk said the city did not initially budget for the new housing position, she said the department has “wiggle room” to be able to pay the salary for the new deputy director position. Whoever is hired to fill the deputy director position will be a JURA employee. Additionally, Surdyk said the position is considered a management position, which means it would not fall under the union.
“We also have several more grants than what we’ve had in past years, which is great and awful at the same time,” Surdyk said. “We’ve been very successful at getting new grants, but with new grants, there’s more implementation involved, more administration involved, more compliance involved and more admin money. Essentially the new grants should offset the costs of another position.”
Following Surdyk’s presentation regarding the creation of the new JURA position, City Council President Anthony Dolce, R-Ward II, asked whether the position would be a new hire or filled internally.
“There’s potential for both,” Surdyk said. “There is someone internal that I think would be a perfect fit.”
Asked if the internal candidate’s position would have to be replaced if the candidate is hired for the deputy director position, Surdyk explained that the decision will be “up for discussion.”
Mayor Eddie Sundquist also asked Surdyk what other positions have not currently been filled at the Department of Development. Surdyk explained that her department has not yet hired someone to fill the target code enforcement officer position.
“That is not because we can’t afford to, more so because we have a lot of irons in the fire and we need to make sure that we’re able to bring them on and train them,” she said. “Right now, code enforcement is all doing their annual training, so until they’re done with that, I don’t want to bring somebody new in and not have the capacity to train them one on one. That will be filled with later on this year.”
The JURA board members agreed with Surdyk’s proposal for a new deputy director position, citing the increased responsibilities of the Department of Development and the need for housing issues to be addressed in the Jamestown Community.
Dolce said that two or three decades ago the city did not face as many issues with housing and neighborhood conditions.
“It’s over the last couple decades that it’s kind of exploded so to speak, and you’re spending more time doing that kind of stuff than maybe full blown development,” he said.
The deputy director of housing and community development management position was unanimously approved by JURA.