“We could cover it for a while out of existing procedures,” Deputy City Administrator Aaron Parrish said.
The proposal would tap a portion of the current $6.9 million in the city’s fund for maintaining downtown infrastructure.
The fund would cover the approximately $1.5 million in estimated expenses related to the Heart of the City and Discovery Walk projects between 2023 and 2025 as the two Downtown Medical Center projects begin attracting new uses.
Additionally, Josh Johnsen, the city’s interim community development director, said it will give the city time to determine the actual costs related to operating snow-melt infrastructure at both sites. Water and electricity costs for the two projects are currently estimated to be 45 percent of the annual budget for maintenance and operations.
Rochester City Council members, however, voiced concern about the potential long-term expenses.
“I believe we need to pull back,” said council member Kelly Rae Kirkpatrick, who represents a portion of the DMC district.
Council member Mark Bransford, who also represents a portion of the district, agreed that the pace of work might need to slow to make sure operating costs are under control.
“I don’t think we should put this on the back of our taxpayers,” he said.
Potential funding options proposed for long-term expenses wouldn’t necessarily add costs for most taxpayers.
While the potential for adding to the city’s property tax levy or using sales tax funds was discussed, Johnsen pointed to a pair of options that would use neither.
One would expand on the existing Special Service District that assesses a fee to downtown businesses for maintenance and programming efforts.
The other option would seek to create a local-improvement district to assess downtown property owners to help cover the added expense.
Neither option is in the works, but council members voiced support for finding a way to ensure businesses that benefit from the enhanced public spaces help support the added costs.
“I don’t want to see this hoisted into the general (property tax) levy,” council member Patrick Keane said, adding that Mayo Clinic, along with hospitality businesses, would likely benefit most from the improvements.
Council member Nick Campion agreed that efforts should be…