SOUTH PORTLAND – The city is moving to hire a new assistant city manager as part of an economic development agenda that includes plans for a special tax district to promote redevelopment.

The assistant city manager’s position – focused on economic development as well as municipal operations – has been vacant since August.

“It’s absolutely critical that this person can do both jobs simultaneously,” Mayor Tom Blake said Wednesday.

He hopes that, in addition to cultivating relationships with business, the new manager will be a “gregarious communicator,” a sales person for the city and someone who can engage the community.

The city began advertising the job this week. City Manager James Gailey hopes to have the position filled by March.

The assistant manager’s function in South Portland has evolved over time. It grew to formally include economic and community development in 2008 with the hiring of Erik Carson, who resigned this summer.

The new assistant city manager will not handle community development because a staff member shared by South Portland and Cumberland County will be responsible for federal Community Development Block Grants.

The proposed tax district — the Growth Area Tax Increment Financing District — would encourage redevelopment in pockets along major roads. The City Council is expected to consider the proposal next month.

The city would reimburse as much as 80 percent of the property taxes on the increased assessed value of a qualifying property for as long as five years.

The program would require investments of at least $500,000 and would not apply to vacant lots. The program would expire after 11 years.

“The startup costs are often a hindrance for a business to take the plunge,” said Finance Director Greg L’Heureux. “What we were looking at was how can we stimulate some of these businesses by lessening some of these startup costs.”

City officials estimate that the program could generate $10 million in investment over its 11 years, with developers saving $412,500 in tax reimbursements and $742,500 going to the city’s general fund.

The areas that would be in the tax district are around Foden Road, Western and Darling avenues; Main Street near the Scarborough town line; Bud and Wallace avenues; Main Street between Noyes Street and Gerry Avenue; Cash Corner; Broadway and Chambers Avenue; and Madison Street.

In addition to City Council approval, the program would need approval from the state.

Blake, South Portland’s new mayor, said he also hopes a standing city committee can help strengthen development efforts. “We really need to rev up our Economic Development Committee,” he said.

The committee of seven members hasn’t been used to its fullest potential, Blake said.

He said he hopes that turnover will be less rapid in the future, and that the group will meet more frequently.

 

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:

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