City staff may have found a one-year, temporary way to keep performing historic preservation functions after budget cuts defunded a position in city hall that handled the duties of a historic preservation officer.
“Staff was asked to go back and see if there is a way to do this less expensively,” said Bob Myers, city manager. “... the question was how much of a budget do we have to have … how much of a budget could we find to fund it.”
The answer was $50,000. That is the result of several open positions in the police department, leading to savings in the department. Those funds can be used for a housing incentive program, which in turn frees up $50,000 that can be used for historic preservation.
To maintain the city's Central Local Government status, there must be a dedicated staff person — and that person can be contracted rather than a city employee. A contractor has been found, a former city manager in a nearby city.
If contracted, the historic preservation officer would not be responsible for conducting administrative reviews, which can be done by city staff. They would be responsible for local site reviews, dealing with the state organization, arranging Historic Preservation Commission meetings and maintaining records for historic preservation records.
“We still have to take a streamlined approach and cannot do everything we have done in the past,” Myers said.
That could mean reducing the number of members of the Historic Preservation Commission, negotiating a new agreement with North Newton, which has been part of the commission in the past.
The commission voted to accept the plan and seek approval from the state organization.
“This agreement still needs to be blessed by the state preservation organization,” Myers said. “... This is an option staff has come up with so we can do historic preservation for another year.”