Downtown manager hiring expected soon

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – A downtown manager for the city should be in place by the middle to end of July.

The Redevelopment Authority received that update Thursday from chair Lee Gentine.

“The difficult thing is finding someone who wants to work 20 hours a week instead of 40,” Gentine said of the list of more than half a dozen candidates city and Chamber of Commerce officials will narrow down to pick a finalist.

Gentine added that plans are in place to set up office space for the new downtown manager in the Burkart Insurance building at 118 Stafford St.

Gentine praised Chamber Executive Director Mary Hauser for her cooperation in the effort to hire a manager. Preliminary interviews will be held soon to narrow the list down to one or two final candidates, he added.

City Administrator Brian Yerges reported to the RDA on progress with two vacant downtown buildings the city took possession of at 31 and 133 E. Mill St.

Crews have been engaged to clear scrap and debris out of the basement of 133 E. Mill St., Yerges said. They will be able to sell whatever they can salvage from the items in the basement in lieu of payment.

“We are thinking about partially rehabbing 31 (E. Mill St.) this year and 133 (E. Mill St.) will be getting a new roof,” Yerges told the RDA. The roof at 133 E. Mill St. is leaking severely enough that it is causing great damage to the rest of the building, he explained.

He said estimates of the cost to rehabilitate 31 E. Mill St. are in the range of $100,000 to $150,000, but added that historic tax credits may be available to the city to help offset some of that cost.

Fixing up the building should make it easier for the city to sell it and recoup its expenses thus far, Yerges added.

The Finance and Personnel Committee of the City Council has had some preliminary discussion on fixing up both buildings, Yerges said, and is supportive thus far of the effort.

“I like your idea of doing something with them to show that they’re ready to be sold,” RDA member Carole O’Malley said of the proposed work.

“I’m kind of excited now that we’re looking at a couple of projects, some actual work progress being made on Mill Street, we’re getting close to doing something physical and productive on Mill Street,” Alderman and RDA member David Williams commented. “We’ll actually have something that’s visible to the public.”

“For many years the city’s policy has been one of non-intervention in downtown,” Yerges noted. “Now we’re going to give it a shot to see what can be done, try a couple of projects that are not too expensive to see how it works. Success breeds future success.”

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