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.