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City planning division takes budget hit, cuts five staffers

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The city’s Department of Metropolitan Development has let go of more than half of its long-range planning staff and is looking to hire a new manager for the downsized division.

Effective Sept. 20, DMD Director Adam Thies eliminated five of its nine long-range planners, due to an anticipated 10-percent drop in federal funding in 2014. The planners typically work closely with neighborhoods on development issues.

All of the city’s long-term planning functions are covered by federal grants, especially from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Noting that the U.S. House of Representatives is considering a resolution to eliminate the Community Development Block Grant program, Thies said the federal budget could end up hitting DMD much harder.

Asked how his department will compensate, Thies said it already was relying heavily on private not-for-profits like the Local Initiatives Support Corp. Among several missions, the group helps neighborhoods create long-term strategies for revitalization.

“The reality is we are a city now that does a lot of its planning in a public-private way,” Thies said. “We’re going to embrace that future.”

The new administrator, who is yet to be hired, will work with the four full-time staff members and take over half the duties that have been covered by division chief Mike Peoni, who will retire Oct. 18 after 42 years with the city.

Peoni also has overseen DMD’s zoning staff, which is funded by department fees. Thies has filled the vacancy for a zoning administrator with his predecessor,  Maury Plambeck, who stepped aside last year to work on special projects in Mayor Greg Ballard’s office.

Thies said the mayor’s office will continue to carry Plambeck’s salary, which was $94,242 last year, in its budget, and that Plambeck will act as more than a zoning administrator.

Ballard spokesman Marc Lotter said Plambeck has been working on projects related to Rebuild Indy and neighborhood improvement that the mayor intends to announce next year.

DMD's proposed $36 million 2014 budget covers 76 full-time equivalent employees. Various federal grants account for 78 percent of the department budget and cover 35-1/2 of its full-time equivalent jobs. The rest comes from fee-generated funds, which include fees paid for tax-abatement applications and zoning changes.

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  • Experience
    But doesn't Theis have management experience?
  • Theis
    Does anyone think Adam Thies is actually qualified for his position? Once again, it's a young person placed in position who lacks the experience to do the job.
  • Nepotism and cronyism; the Ballard/Indy way
    Mothers supervising daughters. Siblings getting each other hired over more qualified candidates. Old party hack retreads brought in to replace more competent workers. And, presumably best of all, Reggie Walton (and John Hawkins) parachuting into their positions at DMD out of the blue sky. Was it their connections to Deputy Mayor Olgen Williams? In what organization would nobody accept responsibility for the complete lack of oversight over two employees under federal indictment for such violations of the public trust as accepting bribes?
  • Peggy Frazier is Jennifer Fults' MOTHER!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Peggy Frazier should not be hired. READ - Jennifer Fults should go. She welcomed Reggie Walton with both hands: http://goo.gl/pSE9Vp
  • IndyLandBank Scandal...
    Thank you Cletus, that is what I am saying. No Clem Haskins, I'm not psychic but I can read. - http://tinyurl.com/indylandbank - http://goo.gl/pSE9Vp -
  • Fear not Dean
    Mr. Thies is bringing in more highly paid managers to "lead: the fewer and fewer workers remaining. Instead of having a $94,000 director and a ~$70,000 planning administrator, they will now have a $120,000 director and two administrators making $94,000 and a perhaps yet unknown amount for the second one. Not to mention, they recently added two deputy directors to the 20th Floor of DMD, Jeff Roeder and Peggy Frazier (previously an administrative assistant). Mrs. Frazier is the mother of Jennifer Fults. Does that help clear up why they needed to fire five of the people doing actual work?
  • Who wins?
    It seems like strange timing with this being the director's first budget. How is he supposed to effectively lead the remaining staff? 'Don't worry, I still really believe in public planning.'
  • Huh?
    Maybe what he is saying is that the department had no procedures in place to prevent this activity or the supervisor wasn't supervising. I'm sure these issues will be raised at the trial.
  • what?
    So she welcomed a new employee to her section and then she's somehow to blame for his criminal actions several years later? Are you saying she's a psychic and should have seen this coming? What's your logic? I'm guessing you have none and are purely spewing libel.
  • Fults
    Jennifer Fults should go. She welcomed Reggie Walton with both hands: http://goo.gl/pSE9Vp
    • IndyLandBank...
      http://tinyurl.com/indylandbank
    • Here we go again
      When I hear private public projects, all I can think about is the public pays and the private of the partnership get richer. The tax payers become 25 to 40% partners, without ownership, and they do not recieve the profits. In other words, this becomes another way of making sure the rich and famous become richer without the risk.
    • More administrators!
      Less workers, more bosses. (Kent, I would imagine the budget includes many millions that are distributed in grant funds.) The average salary of the people they sacked was probably about $40K/year.
    • numbers don't jive
      Sounds like tough and rough times for the department that made this City what is has become over the last 45+ years. At $36M budget, that's an average of $474K per employee, of course plenty of other costs there within the dept. we don't know about. Seems to be an end to an era, with Harold Rominger (+-50 years at DMD) passing away and Peoni (42 years) leaving, Adam has his hands full to keep the City on some correct path of good growth.

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