Council gives police station renovation tentative support
The Rochester City Council gave tentative support Tuesday for a $22 million plan to renovate the city’s North Police Station to also hold other departments.
“We committed to this in 2015, and I think it’s time to move forward,” Council Member Ed Hruska said of plans to renovate the former Think Bank building at 4001 West River Parkway.
The latest proposal would add space for Building Safety, Community Development and Public Works departments as the city moves to create a one-stop shop for development efforts. Finding connected space for the three departments is part of the city’s effort to take over some planning duties from the current Rochester-Olmsted Consolidated Planning Department.
Last month, council members voiced reluctance regarding a proposal to renovate the standalone police station for $18 million, noting they had expected the cost to be lower when the building was bought for $3.2 million in 2016.
They appeared more accepting of renovation expenses Tuesday with the combined proposal.
However, some council members wanted more time to consider options,
Council Member Nick Campion said he’d like to see other locations researched for the development-related departments to ensure the best option was found.
At the same time, he noted the Think Bank site would offer advantages with proper planning.
“I actually really like that site as a police precinct,” he said. “It makes a ton of sense there, but I just want to round the edges.”
Council Member Michael Wojcik said he likes the latest proposal but wants to see a longer vision developed to ensure additional projects don’t pop up unexpectedly.
“Realistically, what do we need for facilities for the next 20 years?” he asked. “What is the timeline and what is the incremental investment and effect on our property tax levy?”
Assistant City Administrator Aaron Parrish said more information can be gathered but said the city would need to move in a specific direction since it could eventually lose space in the county building that currently houses the Building Safety Department.
Council President Randy Staver said he welcomed added discussion but indicated it’s important to move forward with the renovation, and the combined effort enhances options.
“We had already made somewhat of a commitment with the purchase of the Think Bank site, so we’re on that path already,” he said. “The thing that’s also encouraging is that at the time we made the decision, we didn’t contemplate where the whole community development thing was going.”
He said the latest proposal meets efficiency goals while also addressing community concerns.
With the mixed support, City Administrator Steve Rymer said staff would include potential funding in the city’s Capital Improvement Program for the upcoming years. He said that would allow design efforts to start with the option for construction in 2020.
“We have to start down that path so when we get to 2020, we’re ready to go,” he said, noting the council will still have time to make adjustments to the larger plan as it moves forward.
In addition to including the potential project in the Capital Improvement Program, the council indicated support for tweaks to the 2019 city budget.
The changes include $135,000 for property liability insurance, an additional $8,000 for RNeighbors and $5,000 for training city clerk staff. The changes keep the proposed budget within the preliminary limit of nearly $289.3 million established in September.
The final budget and Capital Improvement Program will be the subject of a Dec. 3 public hearing before the council votes on approval.