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October 8, 2013

New city official in unique position

NEW CASTLE — Matthew Staniszewski is in a unique position.

He’s not New Castle’s first director of community and economic development, but he is the first to head a restructured department that includes code enforcement, zoning, planning and economic development.

Now in his fourth week as director, Staniszewski said of his job, “It’s a challenging task. I look at a team-oriented approach.

“I’m not a micromanager,” he added, noting he is working with “a great staff.”

“I’m here to look at the bigger picture and make sure we work as a cohesive unit and develop policies and procedures to work more efficiently and effectively.”

Combining the activities was a directive in the city’s Act 47 recovery plan. The city’s Act 47 coordinator said the consolidation would provide more personnel and resources that are dedicated to community and economic development.

Staniszewski, 36, was one of 100 applicants for the position, according to Mayor Anthony Mastrangelo. City council approved his hiring in July at a pro-rated salary of $65,000.

He served as a city councilman for eight years in Washington, Pa. During that stretch, he served as chief financial officer and deputy mayor and then as public works director.

In addition, Staniszewski has eight years experience in economic development, code enforcement, zoning and planning with the city of Washington and is a certified grant writer.

His priorities are neighborhood stabilization as well as developing programs for home ownership and creating a climate for businesses “to start here or move here. And really marketing the city as a place to work and raise a family safely.”

Under his recommendation, the city is in the process of creating a non-profit Citywide Development Corp. of New Castle.

“I think it’s going to be a key component to development and neighborhood stabilization.”

In addition to promoting commercial and industrial development, the corporation will utilize state laws to address properties that are blighted and tax delinquent, he said.

One immediate task is assessing requests for state funds from individuals for business development. The city has received eight requests for Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program funds, which are designated for the downtown area. The requests exceed the amount of money the city has remaining from the grant.

He has listed the pros and cons for each request and presented them to city council, which will have the final say as to which projects receive the funds. The state must approve them as well.

The city has less than $800,000 in Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program money remaining from the $5 million grant, but some of that already has been committed to other projects.

Staniszewski said he also wants to create an application process that uses a scoring formula.

“That will be how we select projects in the future. We want to eliminate as much of the red tape as possible, but make sure the city makes sound investments.”

(Email: jmanna@ncnewsonline.com)

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