CUYAHOGA FALLS — Prior to last week’s vote, residents including the city’s former community development director were among a large crowd who shared their thoughts with City Council on the city’s proposal to create a new division handling neighborhood excellence, communications and community outreach.

Mark Bosko, vice president of marketing and public relations for Western Reserve Hospital, said April 16 he supported the city’s proposal for the Neighborhood Excellence, Communications and Community Outreach (NECCO) department.

"This role would allow for focused, streamlined, coordinating consistent messaging to all audiences, primarily first your citizens, Council, staffs that work for the city, businesses and the media," said Bosko. "[In] an organization your size, this is extremely needed."

He noted he felt the city was at a point "where the growth and the progress that has come could be amplified with a person focusing specifically on these communications."

But Susan Truby, who served as the city’s community development director under previous Mayor Don Robart, said the previous administration promoted many of the same programs the city has now.

"In the past, they were all executed with our existing employees," said Truby. "I don’t think you need to create four political patronage jobs to oversee any of these types of activities."

Truby noted while she felt Bosko’s comments, she noted the hospital is in "the private sector … We’re the government, …and we’re responsible for tax dollars."

Law Director Russ Balthis said the four jobs in the NECCO department were not "political patronage" positions: The Public Utility Customer Advocate position is being renamed Public Utilities and Community Outreach Coordinator and is a civil service position. He said the other three jobs are anticipated to be filled by current city employees, and noted that the one position being eliminated — Riverfront Centre District Manager — was a "political patronage position" created by the previous administration.

Other residents also offered their thoughts on the proposal.

Tom Sullivan said that putting all of the programs that benefit residents "underneath the realm of one area gets it to where we’re circulating facts, not rumors."

Noting he is a Neighborhood Ambassador, Sullivan added he thought the Neighborhood Excellence Initiative is "a really, really good program" that is "worth funding."

"The administration has figured out how to do it so that it’s budget-neutral," said Sullivan. "Let’s go for it."

Selena Cole said she is a Neighborhood Ambassador and noted she and others participate in the program because it is "heartfelt and we want give back to our community. It is not a stepping stone. I don’t want to run for City Council in 10 years. It’s not why I’m doing this."

Sandra Dixon said she had read an article about the Neighborhood Excellence Initiative, and noted "there were a lot of popular buzz words, but there was nothing there that points to a critical need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars."

Dixon said it was her understanding that the duties of NECCO "are already being handled by existing departments."

"Increased efficiencies are not hard-dollar savings, unless jobs are eliminated," said Dixon. "The proposal does not seem to detail any means to measure performance."

Jim Davis said the program "makes sense," and noted several speakers had said they thought the initiative was a good idea.

"If it’s a good idea, do it," said Davis.

Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, pkeren@recordpub.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.