• 27Apr

    This is one of those topics that is sure to be controversial so I wanted to make sure that I provided an overview of the current situation. Really we have 3 options; 1) Ignore the problem 2) Raise property taxes to cover needs 3) Use fees to cover needs Sidewalks are a pretty basic and needed city service.

    While we have been doing #1 for as long as I have been on the council, I don’t accept that this is responsible. Between #2 & #3 I think that #3 is more equitable and more effective in the long run. I lean towards doing this because I have many kids, seniors, and disabled constituents in the city that deserve safer walking routes.

    As a side note if you really want to prank someone, get some pink chalk and mark up their sidewalks right after they have a bunch of panels replaced. I had one person that directed some profanity at me personally after getting assessed. I used some chalk a few months later… After he calmed down, he acknowledged I got him pretty good. We called it even at that point.

    Pros:

    • Improved Public Safety.
    • Small stable fee, property owners never get large unexpected bill.
    • Reduces disproportionate property taxes downtown and other high value commercial properties are paying.
    • Funds sidewalk replacements.
    • Funds ADA Transition Plan prevent lawsuit potential.
    • Funds tree preservation for large mature trees.
    • Funds maintenance of existing and future trails along major roads.
    • Partially funds expansion of sidewalk systems to underserved areas especially be schools & transit.
    • Significantly less staff time required to administer.
    • Able to allocate in a much fairer manner than property taxes.
    • Shared among all properties including the many properties that don’t pay taxes.

    Cons:

    • New monthly fee (likely property tax statement possibly $6 per month range).
    • People who recently paid to replace sidewalks panels are hit twice.
    • For 1/3 taxpayers itemizing; slight reduction in deductions relative to property taxes (we are not 100% certain on this, businesses could likely still deduct).

    Currently we have substantial sidewalk needs that are going unfunded. Like much of Rochester, unsustainable sprawl has left us with more infrastructure than we have resources to maintain. If you think this is painful just wait until you see how streets are going to blow up city finances. (Hint we are more than $1 BILLION in the hole and digging it deeper every month). Currently we need about $3.6 million annually to meet sidewalk needs, we are only putting $350k per year into these items. $250k from property taxes & $100k from assessments. Here is where the money would go.

    • Sidewalk Defect Repair Program $1.4M
    • ADA Transition Plan $1.3M
    • Tree Preservation Related to Sidewalks $150k
    • Bituminous Sidewalk/Right of Way Trail Preservation $528k
    • Priority Gap Fill in Sidewalk System $225k

    Even if we go this route there is still a ton of details to work out like who which type of properties pay how much. Maybe we give a small rebate to people that have paid for panels in the last couple years. We could also start by covering 50% of needs and step it up over time.

    Here is the city presentation.

    Sidewalk Improvement Districts

    Tags: , , ,

  • 03Oct

    This was a very helpful note in understanding how sprawl has affected not only infrastructure but also public safety. Look what has happened in 50 years. Our population has little more than doubled but or geographic sprawl has gone up nearly 5 fold. Taxes will go up significantly to pay for public safety and infrastructure costs.

    Strictly speaking fires, we had 177 fires in buildings in 1965 out of a total of 505 alarms. We had 197 fires in buildings averaged annually over the last ten years (range 177 to 277) out of an annual average of 7853 total runs (includes EMS calls; 2734 total runs excluding EMS) over the same ten years (2005-2014).

    1966 population was 47,800 and 11.33 square miles of city.

    2012 population was 109,000 with a surface area of 54.75 miles.

    Our average annual number of fires has remained consistent over the years. We have the same number of fires now as compared to back then. What has increased are the other types of calls that only a fire department can respond to, such as technical rescues and hazardous materials for example. This excludes medical calls which we regard as a value-added service to the citizenry since our staffing is for fires (“fires” is a generic term that we apply to any calls that only firefighters are trained and equipped to handle).

    We were rated an ISO Class 5 (1 is the best, 10 is the worst) department in 1965 and we are rated Class 3 today.

    Geography/sprawl does impact the ISO classification. More surface area requires more stations/more personnel. We can explore alternative deployment schemes using current resources to compensate for a while for an expanding city surface area. The Fire Department is not keeping up with the sprawl as evidenced by the falling ISO Rating illustrated in the Summary Report.

    My calculations based on projections using Planning and Zoning numbers, DMC numbers, and our historical annual averages suggest that we need to hire 1.6 firefighters per year (starting in 2013 unfortunately) to maintain current service levels when using an ISO benchmark and current FFs/1000 population.

    Rochester is a fire-safe community with neighborhoods that tend to renew rather than become economically abandoned slum areas. 0.85 FFs per 1000 population seems to be right-sized for COR in that we are coping with the service demands. A concern is deterioration in depth of bench and decay in the ISO Rating which is an objective performance standard used for national benchmarking.

    I have attached the charts you requested and the document they are contained in.

    Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you require further.

    Steven Belau
    Deputy Chief-Operations
    Rochester Fire Department

     

    Tags: , , ,

  • 26Jul

    While it was not my idea originally (thank you Nick Campion), I am pushing for an independent analysis of public safety staffing and strategy. In short it is hard to come up with the dollars for public safety; especially when we face the enormous unfunded liability in infrastructure which we do.

    Here is why I think a public OR private ambulance service operating out of our FDs is better that just meeting increased demand with more fire staff.

    Chart of fire calls

    http://streets.mn/2015/05/29/53928/

    Also Ambulances are less up front, less to operate,more nimble and can be staffed with 2 people. Fire trucks require 3-4 people to operate and are more expensive in every way, require wider (thus less safe) streets and beat up the streets more.

    I am also working on a list of questions I am interested in being answered. I never got a response to the data questions I asked more than a year ago. So I am going to put them all in writing this time so it doesn’t get lost.

    Here are some of the questions I am interested in getting answered.

    Fire / EMT

    • What are the local trends in total calls, medical calls, fire calls, false alarms, and calls requiring a 4-minute response?
    • How much of the city is covered by a 4-minute response time? Why will fire not allow a coverage map to be shown to P&Z when the PD is open with that info?
    • How many calls require a fire vehicle to respond?
    • How often do 2 calls requiring a fire vehicle to respond overlap?
    • How many calls are related to unsafe driving practices, especially speeding?
    • What GPS based technology exists to ensure first response can be directed to the closes available vehicle as opposed to multiple vehicles racing to a single location?

    Police

    • How does our per capita police (exclude dispatch) compare to other Midwest regional centers?
    • How does our “per serious crime event” police staffing (exclude dispatch) compare to other Midwest regional centers?
    • I have a couple of other questions on the “safety of our officers” that I will not ask in public. My greatest concern in staffing is available back up for the safety of our officers.

    EDIT: Here is a link to a group staff is recommending we consider.

    Tags: ,

  • 26May

    Here was a nice summary from the Fire Chief on some questions that came up about the new fire station.

    1. What was the process for the station? – In order to build this station, we went through numerous approval processes. First, the project had to be approved by the sales tax committee. After all the potential projects were presented, the concept of a joint fire, police, dispatch and EOC was rated the #1 project by the committee. After that, there were numerous other approval processes to navigate. These include, in no particular order, council approval, legislative approval, voter approval (to extend the sales tax to pay for it) planning and zoning, traffic (to allow us to exit directly onto Viola Road) energy commission, architectural review, architect selection, contractor selection and bid award.


    2. How much is this costing the Rochester taxpayers? The construction cost ($8.8 million) is funded by the sales tax. This means that this is not funded by property taxes and is actually funded by anyone who lives here or visits Rochester and spends money. Since we are the home of the Mayo Clinic, that means that many sales tax projects are partially funded by visitors. The cost of the land, other land acquisition, etc. was funded by either general fund money (property taxes) or public works funds. I would assume that the city, will at some point, will sell some or all of the remaining 4 acres to recoup some costs. If a business of some type locates there they will pay property taxes, have employees, etc. New sewer and water lines have been installed in the area that will help drive development.

    3. Why is the station so big for only three RFD personnel?? The funding was approved for this facility based on it being a multi-use facility. Here’s a quick rundown:

      1. Like our other stations, RPD, will have a presence there since there is office space in the lower level.

      2. The lower level has room for an Emergency Operations Center. Currently, the city does not have a “real “EOC that meets any sort of best practices. We have a temporary one on the 3rdfloor of city hall.

      3. The EOC has a large room for activations but a room that will see more use as a city and department meeting room and classroom. Currently, classroom space for city training is at a premium.

      4. The firefighter quarters has the typical RFD fire station amenities, kitchen, work out area, dorms, etc. There is room for six dorm rooms. Why? We built in extra dorm rooms to accommodate a future additional engine company. The northeast area is developing and the city has added water and sewer lines. We had a firefighter committee involved in the design process. We are simply trying to plan ahead as much as is practical.

      5. The truck bay is larger to accommodate a future additional crew and to have storage room for current equipment. As you know, truck bay space is always at a premium in a fire department.

      6. We are proud of our RFD history. As such, there is space in the station to display the Fox and other fire department memorabilia

      7. Adjacent to the “museum” area is a small conference room. It is separate from the station so that other city departments or community groups could use it for a meeting without impacting station personnel or compromising station security.

      8. The station will also house a future dispatch center.

    4. What is going on with dispatch?Currently, dispatch is located in the Government Center and has six positions. As RFD continues to experience 2% to 5% call volume increases a year, dispatch will need more positions. (Law Enforcement will see increased calls also) The new center has the potential to allow up to 12 dispatch stations. There is no moving date at this time. I would assume it will take some time to get a plan and funding together for this.

    5. Why wasn’t a floor put in dispatch? This was NOT a money issue for the construction of this project. We didn’t put a floor in dispatch because there is no final design for dispatch. This means there are no wiring and cabling plans. If we “guessed” and put conduit in the floor and then poured a concrete floor it might all have to come out for a new center.

    6. We did upsize the generator to a size that will allow the entire facility, including future dispatch, to be powered up in the event of a power outage.

    7. When will the station be open?? – Our best estimate is that we will move into the station in late June. This is subject to change due to the work schedule of the contractors

    8. Run cards – We have a first draft for Station 2 and will do our best to get it right. Since this is NEW there will likely be boundaries that will change after a few months of actual experience. We can then make additional adjustments. The message is, be patient and give us feedback so we can ultimately get the new run cards as accurate as possible. Run cards are never cast in stone.

    Tags: ,

  • 11Aug

    A disclaimer to begin, data is never perfect especially when if comes to crime.  If the community has a total of 1 crime and you are the victim, its bad.  There has never been a crime rate of 0 thought that would be nice.  It is important that we have a police presence that can adequately respond to crime.  The tricky part is balance the substantial cost of adding police officers to with the substantial cost of putting services and amenities in place that serve to prevent crime such as libraries, parks, affordable housing, transit and social services.

    I was alarmed when I heard that the average response time to a Type 1 (most serious) crime was now over 7 minutes.  As a person that is driven by data I wanted to better understand if the issue was that we have too much serious crime for our number of officers, if the community design (sprawl) was adding too much to response times, or both.  Based on comparisons to peer cities I think that our sprawl might be a major issue. Read more…

    Tags: , ,

  • 24Jul

    At the last City Council Committee Meeting I raised the issue of downtown behavior getting out of control on some nights.  Anyone that reads the PB knows of recent issues.  When I have people (who are out partying at 2 AM) contacting me out of the woodwork that have never contacted an elected official before about their safety, I know there are issues.  Based on the conversation at the meeting there were many council members unaware of the issues.

    Hear are some comments from our police chief.  I am supportive of every suggestion that he makes, however I am a little disappointed about passing an ordinance that duplicates existing laws such as not serving intoxicated individuals.  My friend Michael McDonough cares a lot about this issue.  Bottom line, I love a vibrant downtown, I don’t love businesses acting irresponsibly.  Expect crackdowns and perhaps undercover operations coming soon.  I believe most businesses are responsible downtown, but know of 1 or 2 that are not.  If the police need a designated person to drink lots of beer, hey, I’m here to serve…

    Stevan –

    Issues in the downtown area have been escalating as the weather has improved and more people are out at later hours.  Most of the “bad activity” has consisted of loud noise, littering, generally disorderly conduct and minor acts of vandalism.  Some behavior has escalated to fights and, due to the large number of people in the area, constitutes a potentially dangerous circumstance. Read more…

    Tags:

  • 10Jun

    Here is an update on Holiday Inn Express.

    To:       City of Rochester Council, Mayor Brede, Mr. Randy Johnson, Ms. Mitzi Baker

    From: Councilman Michael Wojcik

    Re:       Holiday Inn Express / Shoppes on 2nd

    Date:   June 10, 2014

    I continue to learn more about this daily, but I do feel obligate to give you and the community an update over neighborhood concerns.

    I would like to thank the city council and staff for taking long overdue action against Holiday Inn Express for both violating the terms of their development agreement and creating a persistent public safety hazard for their patrons and the community.  These issues have been ongoing for several years.  The period for goodwill or reasonable accommodation expired some time ago.  On Friday May 30, I spent time on the phone with building owner Jeff Lamont who tried to convince me that nothing was falling off his building.  I encouraged him to watch the Rochester news that evening…  I also believe the Holiday Inn Express has tried to hide the serious issues by reinstalling stone with out a permit or addressing underlying issues.

    Because of the persistent negligence of the ownership, the hotel is operating without a certificate of occupancy.  This project is one of several in the Kutzky Park area where we have allowed properties to operate in violation of their development agreements.   I would ask the city council to direct staff to use any means necessary to bring properties into compliance with their development agreements.

    As of the morning of June 9, 2014 Holiday Inn Express remains in non-compliance with their development agreement and the building owner had not returned calls to staff.  Given the serious public safety issues and persistent non-compliances I would ask that we set a deadline of July 1, 2014 to have a plan in place to bring all aspects of the property into compliance with the development plan approved by the city council on April 19, 2010.  I ask that we require the developer to provide a form of financial assurance to be forfeit if all improvements are not made by October 31, 2014.  If the developer were not willing to meet these expectations I would recommend that we use our authority to vacate the building on July 1.

    Based on our insistence, the Holiday Inn Express did install barriers along East Frontage Road and 2nd Street SW at their expense.

    From our meeting April 19, 2010 we included these 2 conditions on the Holiday Inn Express:

    Condition #12

    The buildings will need to be constructed as shown on the elevation drawings.  The applicant agrees that no deviation to the appearance of the building design, exterior facades, landscaping or streetscape will occur, from the plans approved by the city council.

    Condition #14

    A detailed landscape plan shall be submitted as a part of the Final Plan submittal material.   Additional canopy trees and landscaping will be necessary to screen the lot and to frame the corridor at this entry area.  Shrubs and understory canopy trees should make up a significant part of the landscaping on the properties to screen the

    Among the significant changes that we made without council consent on the Holiday Inn Express and adjoining Shoppes on 2nd*

    • Significant architectural change adding cheap stone to South elevation of hotel.
    • Significant architectural change removing the entire building cornice.
    • Addition of exhaust vent facing 2nd street at pedestrian level.
    • Removal of parking lot landscaped islands.
    • Changing mulch from wood to rock leading to the death of many plantings.
    • Elimination of ornamental fence.
    • Elimination of several trees.
    • Elimination of additional plantings.
    • Reduction in size of approved plantings.
    • Change to strip mall building facing 1st Street, elimination of landscaping elements.
    • Significant architectural changes to corner of 16th Avenue and 2nd Street plaza and landscaping.
    • Elimination of utility box screening.
    • Additional signage added.
    • Change to opaque windows at 2nd street and 16th avenue.
    • Elimination of functional building access at 2nd street and 16th avenue.
    • There is an open question about whether the power lines were to be buried along 16th Avenue.
    • Change of use at 16th and 2nd from restaurant to strip mall.

    It appears the developer was given additional signage on the building when a variance request was not checked against the subsequently adopted 2nd street corridor plan and its guidance on signage.  Than language should be applied for incentive and restricted developments.

    Unfortunately for the neighborhood we cannot undo all these changes.  Despite the explicit instruction in conditions #12 and #14, staff still entertained Type I amendments that the neighborhood and the council were not made aware of.  The changes did go to the planning commission, but they were not made aware of the council guidance that the elevations and site plan were not to change.

    A November 5, 2010 memo indicates staff approved the following items:

    • Addition of 600 sf to restaurant building on corner, plaza to be relocated to West, direct building access at 16th and 2nd.
    • “Minor” architectural changes.
    • Relocation of parking and trash.
    • Removal of landscaped island.
    • Addition of utility transformer pads.
    • Reduction of landscape area.
    • Increase in floor area ration.
    • Minor landscaping changes due to MnDot permit requirements.

    During the presentation to the council, an architect on behalf of the developer offered these comments that pertain to the site:

    • “with a small patio on the corner to give some street presence”
    • “good buffer between street and parking lot”
    • “A nice architectural corner…”
    • pedestrian focal points and entrances along 2nd, entrance along the corner. access to restaurant

    The neighborhood is justifiably upset that none of this ever happened.

    Based on the approval and type I changes I believe the following corrections are absolutely required.

    • All of the stone veneer must be completely removed from the hotel building; a competent contractor should then properly install correct materials.
    • Exhaust vent shall be remove from pedestrian facing façade and routed out top of the building.
    • Ornamental fencing, mulching, and plantings will be corrected per the approved site plan.
    • Street trees will be installed to site plan requirements.
    • Building access and transparent windows must be maintained at corner of 2nd street and 16th Avenue.
    • Method of screening utility boxes (while permitting access) shall be installed to meet goal of the required screening.

    Based on the approval and type I changes I believe the following corrections should be considered and discussed further by the city council.

    • Install building cornice.
    • Make improvements to South facing façade.
    • Bury utility lines on 16th Ave SW.
    • Review if strip mall usage at 2nd street and 16th ave. is permitted in place of the approved restaurant.

    Regards,

    Michael Wojcik

     

    Here are some notes from 2012:

     

    A concerned citizen delivered me a piece of exterior stone that fell from the Holiday Inn Express on 2nd Street.  Police have been notified.  I have also notified the public.

     

    This is at least the 3rd time that stone has fallen off that building.  After the first time I expressed my concern, I was told by building safety that the risk had been addressed.

     

    I suggest that the sidewalk be shut down until temporary structures can be built to protect pedestrians can be erected at building owner expense.

     

    At our 3:30 meeting Monday I would like an update on what staff is doing to address the issue.  I would like to see an investigation launched to find out how such shoddy construction can be done in the city of Rochester, how it passed inspection, and why so many architectural and landscaping standards that were required as part of the project were never done.  This last part would include the significant changes to the landscaping, roof line and features on 2nd street.

     

    Also Randy,

     

    Do you know who the general contractor was on this project? Who did the stone work?

     

    Michael Wojcik

     

    Responses:

     

    Good morning Councilman Wojcik,

     

    The general contractor and the stone work contractor are as follows:

     

    General contractor

    Jeff Lamont  [(605)225-1712 or jlamont@lamontcompanies.com ]

    Lamont Companies, Inc.

    205 6th Avenue SE

    Suite 300

    Aberdeen, SD  57401

     

    Stone Work contractor

    Marco Valenzuela [(970) 302-6025]

    Bella Vista Stucco, Inc.

    115 18th Street

    Greeley, CO  80631

     

    I talked to Gary Dutton, Manager of Building Inspections and Ed Schnell, Chief Building Inspector and they indicated that they will investigate this issue first thing this morning.

     

    Please let me know if you have any further questions or concerns.

     

    Thank you

    Randy

     

     

    Tags: , ,

  • 30May

    From 2012:

    Good morning Councilman Wojcik,

    The general contractor and the stone work contractor are as follows:

    General contractor

    Jeff Lamont  [(605)225-1712 or jlamont@lamontcompanies.com ]

    Lamont Companies, Inc.

    205 6th Avenue SE

    Suite 300

    Aberdeen, SD  57401

    Stone Work contractor

    Marco Valenzuela [(970) 302-6025]

    Bella Vista Stucco, Inc.

    115 18th Street

    Greeley, CO  80631

    I talked to Gary Dutton, Manager of Building Inspections and Ed Schnell, Chief Building Inspector and they indicated that they will investigate this issue first thing this morning.

    Please let me know if you have any further questions or concerns.

    Thank you

    Randy

    Tags: , ,

  • 30May

    Needless to say this did not get handled well enough.

    A concerned citizen delivered me a piece of exterior stone that fell from the Holiday Inn Express on 2nd Street. Police have been notified. I have also notified the public.

    This is at least the 3rd time that stone has fallen off that building. After the first time I expressed my concern, I was told by building safety that the risk had been addressed.

    I suggest that the sidewalk be shut down until temporary structures can be built to protect pedestrians can be erected at building owner expense.

    At our 3:30 meeting Monday I would like an update on what staff is doing to address the issue. I would like to see an investigation launched to find out how such shoddy construction can be done in the city of Rochester, how it passed inspection, and why so many architectural and landscaping standards that were required as part of the project were never done. This last part would include the significant changes to the landscaping, roof line and features on 2nd street.

    Also Randy,

    Do you know who the general contractor was on this project? Who did the stone work?

    Tags: , ,

  • 30May

    Councilman Michael Wojcik demands city of Rochester take immediate action to shut down the Holiday Inn Express at 2nd street SW and US 52.

    Despite claims that the issues have been resolved the facade on the Holiday Inn Express continues to crumble and drop chunks of stone near the public right-of-way.  The pieces of stone are large enough to potentially cause serious injury.  The work done by low quality out-of-state contractors continues to endanger the public.
    Both the Holiday Inn Express and adjoining Shoppes on 2nd continue to be in violation of the city council approved site plan.

    More information coming at votewojcik.org.

     photo IMG_3669_zps8dc12c49.jpg
     photo IMG_3670_zpsf5568120.jpg
     photo IMG_3673_zps13e94f02.jpg
     photo IMG_3672_zps2ba9f989.jpg
     photo IMG_3675_zpsa07898da.jpg
     photo IMG_3671_zps4cc8f64c.jpg
     photo IMG_3674_zpsbc91bf00.jpg

    Tags:

« Previous Entries   Next Entries »