By Carol Kania Morency
Elmhurst aldermen on Monday acknowledged that the city needs to better communicate with residents, and they wondered if a new full-time marketing and communications person might also reduce the city's reliance on consultants.
The city will advertise for a marketing and communications coordinator, who will be responsible for relaying information about the city to residents on both a daily basis and in the event of emergencies, use social media and update the Explore Elmhurst Facebook page, and serve as a liaison to City Centre and the Elmhurst Chamber of Commerce.
According to a memo from the Development, Planning and Zoning Committee, which recommended the full-time communications position, "the communications coordinator will take on additional duties currently managed by consultants, including but not limited to serving as contact for property owners, commercial Reators, prospective businesses and managing new business openings."
The city is budgeting $75,000 for the position.
DPZ chairman and 5th Ward Alderman Scott Levin explained that with a retirement in the Visitor and Tourism Department, and considering the in-house economic development department was eliminated in 2009, the marketing job represented a reallocation of resources.
Third Ward Alderman Dannee Polomsky noted that the new person would be first and foremost a public information officer, charged with developing better communications protocols. He or she also will coordinate information related to the city, the historical museum and economic development initiatives.
The city's marketing approach is complex, Polomsky said.
“This role allows us to take on critical initiatives ...This position will greatly enhance the city's communications with residents and organizations,” she said.
The new hire will be working with the three consultants currently helping the city with marketing and community development: development consultant Ken Bartels, real estate consultant Charlie Van Slyke, and Cathy Maloney of Findzall Community Marketing. The city reviewed Findzall's contract earlier this year and extended it for only five months to allow for a review of marketing and communication's strategies overall.
According to City Manager Jim Grabowski, recent flooding and other emergency situations prompted staff and aldermen to realize that the city needs improve how it relayed information to residents.
Third Ward Alderman Michael Bram agreed with the end intent of the new position.
“But I don't agree with the path to get to that destination.” he said. If current consultants aren't doing the job, Bram said, the city should review the consultants.
First Ward Alderman Diane Gutenkauf agrees that the city needs a consistent message and formal communication plans. She asked if adding a full-time person would reduce the city's reliance on consultants.
Grabowski said city staff believes at least one of the consultants, Findzall, could re-focus solely on business recruitment. Polomsky added that the exact use of consultants in the future would be determined by the skill set of the person hired.
“This is long overdue,” 5th Ward Alderman Chris Healy said. “These days, our residents demand instantaneous communication.
“It's 2013. In 10 years, things will be different. Do we have someone on staff who's really going to stay on top of that? Now we will.”
Bram was the only alderman to vote against adding the position.
Aldermen also voted to hire an assistant planning and zoning administrator, a move that was unanimous. Levin reminded the council that the Building and Zoning staff also was reduced during the economic downturn, and that there currently is only one person in the department. Housing starts are increasing, he noted, and the city has big projects on its plate, including the construction of the Addison Avenue garage and the Hahn Street development.
And, the search continues for a new director of public works to replace Mike Hughes, who has taken a job at a Schaumburg consulting firm. Annual salary is around $130,000, and the job requires "six years senior level management experience in a major public works setting," or equivalent.