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Updated: 02/26/2014 08:00:02AM

Wiegers eyed to top CRA for now

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Without knowing what the entire scope of responsibility will be as the head man for the Community Redevelopment Agency, the city’s chief planner will move into the spot temporarily while the agency’s five-year plan is finalized and while City Manager George A. Long continues to look for a replacement.

At today, Wednesday’s, meeting, Bob Wiegers will be recommended to the seven-member board as replacement for Andy Laurent and Bartow Consulting, who and which has been serving as interim executive director the past 20 months. Though this extension of Wiegers’ duties is not termed “interim,” he will be serving the purpose of carrying out management and administrative duties with the help of the CRA’s only full-time employee, Gail Murray. He will also function under the code established where the executive director is an employee under the supervision of the city manager.

What Wiegers does know comes from a memo he was issued by Long: “Coordination and facilitation of the 1) 5-Year CRA Redevelopment Plan approval process, 2) Single-Family Home Blight Elimination Plan Project and 3) Downtown Business Development Plan Project shall be addressed as priority tasks during the remainder of the current strategic planning work period and thereafter as determined by the CRA board.” The memo was copied to the CRA board.

Wiegers takes over March 1, one day after Laurent has told the board his interim term will end. Bartow Consulting, with Laurent at the helm, has been serving as the interim executive director of the CRA since the board fired its last executive director, Patrick Brett. Laurent was to serve for three months with the provision that 30-day increases could be used while a search continued for a permanent one. That has been used and the pay measured in what the previous executive director was paid was matched. There will be no increase in his compensation .

The idea of Wiegers looking into taking over permanently is not in either his mind nor in Long’s. Wiegers said he is treating this as an additional duty. He said he has the background necessary to carry out what the CRA is trying to accomplish and will be on top of getting the five-year plan accomplished, but in looking at this position more deeply, that, he said, isn’t what he has in mind.

“I’m going to carry out the duties of the CRA director. Ultimately (a permanent director) is going to be a different person,” he said.

The search for a permanent executive director has been difficult because the attributes what the board wants in a candidate have not yet been cemented. In the last year, the board has changed focus of its duties. Rather than be a “piggy bank” for many clients and agencies in town, the CRA is going to focus on more narrowly-scoped objects in which to spend its limited funds. Plus it is working diligently on coming up with a five-year plan to increase economic activity and “connecting all the pieces” to make that work, Long said. In that, the ultimate scope, pay range and background is not solid.

“I’m hesitant to spend dollars on a full-time person when most of the next nine months is going to be focused on development,” Long said.

Until the focus of the future can be fully determined, Long said, the city can have a better idea of what kind of person best fits the job. He said the city and CRA can go that way or get someone in position to fill the spot, which probably would not be a good idea.

That’s where Wiegers comes in, he said.

“To hire a full-time person as a CRA director is a waste at this point,” he said. “Bob is a professional planner and what the CRA has on the table (he can handle well).”

Wiegers also has the necessary background, too. He said he’s worked with the CRA in the past during past executive director searches and his familiarity with the CRA and all the pieces that have to come together to make a five-year plan is in his mind.

“All of it is planning-related and Bob is a processional planner. It’s the kind of thing he does. He’s familiar with the CRA process.”

One other duty Wiegers is working on is revamping the sign ordinance. That issue came to light with temporary signs and how long they could stay when the city asked residents to take down the signs noting God Bless America because they were on lawns far longer than the ordinance allowed. On Monday, March 3, there will be a workshop on the new ordinance and Wiegers said his involvement with helping re-do the ordinance will be no hindrance. Much of the work is being done by the city’s legal team though, of course, his involvement is in it.

The CRA board will review Long’s memo and recommendation of Wiegers as executive director at its meeting at 8 a.m., today, Wednesday, Feb. 26, at its regular meeting that takes place in the City Hall commission chamber, 450 N. Wilson Ave.

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