RICHMOND — As Richmond officials take steps to fill the town’s vacant director of Community and Business Development position, they are debating what they would like that position to be.

The town, with a population of about 3,400, sits between Interstate 295 and the Kennebec River at the northern end of Sagadahoc County, and like many of its neighbors, it’s looking to get the most bang for its economic development buck.

When reviewing the job description last month at a Board of Selectmen meeting, board member Ryan Chandler said he had researched town planners and economic development in a number of communities across the region.

“I am not in favor of a full-time, $50,000 economic development director,” he said. “I haven’t seen the business development in the last 10 years. I have seen a lot of small projects and a lot of nice projects. I don’t know if there’s an example of a business that has left town or come into town based on this position.”

The new businesses that have come to Richmond came because it made sense to them, Chandler said; they didn’t come because Richmond officials recruited them.

The position, which was held by Victoria Boundy for five years until she left in October to accept another job, was focused on community and business projects. Her job duties included facilitating the update of Richmond’s comprehensive plan, the document that shapes land use decisions and guides town officials in policy decisions. She was also tasked with working on ongoing infrastructure projects and grants and the updated Downtown Revitalization plan as well as helping to expand events like Richmond Day.

While some of those are related to economic development, Town Manager Janet Smith said she would like to emphasize that piece and give it priority.

“If you look at the towns along the I-295 corridor,” she said, “we’re all vying for the same things. We want to put Richmond one rung above everyone else.”

Smith has drafted an updated job description, which selectmen approved at their Nov. 23 meeting. Smith had also asked for authorization to post the job, but withdrew the request after debate by board members, including whether the position should be full time or part time, what the salary should be, whether it should include a focus on recreation marketing.

If Chandler, who served on the town’s budget committee before being elected to the board of selectmen this year, was looking for savings through cutting the position or cutting the salary, they are not likely to be found.

Smith said the position is funded through the Pipeline/Compressor Station TIF, a 20-year deal that was approved by the town in 2000. The TIF is an economic development tool that shelters some additional tax revenue from improvement projects and allows that money to be used for specific purposes. The money could not be moved into the town’s general fund.

Town officials have had this debate before. In 2011, when Darryl Sterling was departing his economic development position with the town, some questioned whether Richmond needed a full-time economic development director.

Now that the position is vacant, Chandler said reviewing what the position entails is appropriate.

“The only outcome I was looking for was to scrutinize the job description,” he said. “I would like to see a direction given and for the person hired to work in that direction.”

Selectman Robert Bodge, who owns and operates Bucky’s Auto Repair on Main Street, said there has been value in the position.

“I am not sold on whether we can be without one or not,” Bodge said, but town officials need to be creative.

That may include recreation marketing opportunities that could include highlighting fishing opportunities on both Pleasant Pond and in the Kennebec River.

The debate is expected to continue. The matter is on Wednesday’s agenda.

“My guess is that the position will be filled,” Chandler said. “The TIF is up in four years, and I think there will be major discussions on whether we continue the TIF.”

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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