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September 30, 2014

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Henderson shifts focus to redevelopment, shuffles employees

Between the recession and the impending creation of a 1,200-acre redevelopment area on the city's east end, the Henderson Redevelopment Agency has its hands full these days.

To help handle the load, and to save a couple jobs in the city's Community Development Department, whose workload has severely declined in recent months, the City Council unanimously voted Dec. 16 to move a full-time planner and a part-time secretary from Community Development to Redevelopment for two years.

In November, the City Council approved a five-year plan to cut expenses in light of a projected $28 million shortfall in tax revenue this year and anticipation of additional years of decline in the future.

One of the areas most affected by the plan was the Development Services Center, which is the self-funding entity that handles building inspections and permits.

Because of the decline in need for those services, the center can no longer fund all of its positions, so the city is shuffling around some employees to other departments where they are needed to avoid layoffs.

Redevelopment Manager Michelle Romero said the two employees will be needed in redevelopment in many ways, including in part to handle increasing requests from businesses within the city's four existing redevelopment areas.

The redevelopment agency offers programs that assist in areas such as facade renovation, rent and business management skills.

"Businesses who are unable to get funding for themselves at this time often turn to us," Romero said.

In addition, the city has annexed more than 800 acres on its eastern border, along the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and is combining it with land it already had to create the 1,200-acre Lakemoor Canyon Redevelopment Area.

Though the land, which was once a manganese mine, will require heavy remediation and any development is likely years away, Romero said, the act of creating a redevelopment area is practically a full-time job on its own.

The city is required to hold several public hearings, comply with federal and state laws, be involved in planning the remediation process, and manage reams of documents to tie it all together.

"It's very, very labor intensive," Romero said. "It's just a very long and complicated process to form a redevelopment area."

The two new staff members will also fill in for a Redevelopment planner who will be sent to Carson City from February to June to help with the city's lobbying efforts before the Nevada Legislature.

But perhaps the biggest job the transferred staffers will have, Romero said, will be helping the Redevelopment Agency shift its focus in response to the economic recession.

"We're going to continue helping the businesses that are here," Romero said, "but we've also shifted our focus to the residents and homeowners who are here, and we're going to do what we can to help them — working on that social infrastructure, if you will."

Romero said the city doesn't have any firm plans yet, but officials are meeting with residents who live in the redevelopment areas to discover what kind of programs and services might be lacking.

Some of the potential programs, she said, include workforce training and recreation, but the Redevelopment Agency is being careful not to duplicate existing services. It will only launch a program if residents are interested in it, she said.

"It's something that we're working hard on," Romero said. "It's something that the Council has identified as a high priority, and they want us to see what we can do to help people get through this difficult time."

Jeremy Twitchell can be reached at 990-8928 or [email protected].

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