St. Charles aldermen on Monday night gave their unanimous support to a proposal to merge two city departments under the direction of Community Development Director Rita Tungare.
Formal City Council approval of the change is expected to come Dec. 16, 2013, with a council vote on an ordinance merging the Community Development Department with the Economic Development Department.
The latter was left nearly a shell over the summer with the departure of two of its three staffers. Former Director Chris Aiston retired at the end of July, just weeks after Economic Development Manager Michael Mertes took a position in another community.
The city administration has been pondering its options about the departments since Aiston retired. The issue has become more pressing with the uptick in in development in the area, which will require a coordinated effort both in terms of planning/zoning issues and economic development concerns.
At the same time, Mayor Raymond Rogina noted after Monday night’s meeting of the City Council Planning and Development Committee that the city has saved more than $100,000 this year simply by not filling the two positions.
That, Rogina said, gives the proposal presented to aldermen by City Administrator Mark Koenen both utility — it creates a one-stop shop for community development and economic development issues — and economy with merging the two departments under one leader.
As community development director, Tungare supervises a staff that’s equivalent to 11.5 full-time positions. By contrast, the former economic development director supervised a staff of two. Merging the departments under one director would create a greater efficiency in terms of management.
Koenen introduced the proposed merger and appointment of Tungare as good news. The Economic Development Department as established in St. Charles in 1998, and Koenen told aldermen that in examining the options, the city looked at three alternatives.
Like St. Charles, Geneva has a standalone economic development department. Batavia, on the other hand, farms out its economic development efforts. The third economic development model, Koenen said, combines community and economic development as is done in Wheaton and Arlington Heights.
Koenen said the city’s economic development efforts have a threefold purpose, the first of which is business retention — meeting the needs and supporting the city’s existing businesses. Second is to ensure St. Charles is a community of choice for businesses looking to relocate. That includes negotiating incentives agreements and finding locations that meet the needs of businesses. The final mission of economic development, he said, is to market St. Charles.
The merger, Koenen said, makes sense, because it will create a one-stop shop where new businesses can get information on both planning and zoning issues, as well as economic development issues.