Council splits on consultant fees

October 3, 2018
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A split Rochester City Council approved adding up to $117,000 to a consultant’s contract Monday to ensure two Destination Medical Center renovation projects comply with workforce requirements.

At the same time, council members asked city staff to research options for potentially hiring staff to do the work to avoid future consulting fees.

“Looking back on the historical spending for this, I think it’s perfectly reasonable that we start exploring making this a full-time position,” Council Member Nick Campion said. “It seems like we are spending more than that anyway.”

The requests presented Monday were for nearly $48,000 for monitoring efforts at the Hotel Indigo renovation project at the former downtown Holiday Inn and $69,000 for the Wells Fargo project near Peace Plaza.

The work performed by SRF Consulting would monitor and document compliance with requirements for engaging women- and minority-owned businesses, using American-made steel and paying a prevailing wage for workers on the projects, which are required for projects to receive public support through the Destination Medical Center initiative.

The Hotel Indigo project has been approved to receive $2.9 million in tax-increment financing, which will return a portion of new tax revenue generated by the building upgrade.

The Wells Fargo project was approved to receive up to $2.4 million in TIF payments as its property taxes increase.

In both cases, the added consultant fees will be paid through funds generated by the TIF process, according to Brent Svenby, Rochester senior administrative analyst.

So far, SRF has been approved to receive up to $431,000 for similar monitoring efforts on eight DMC projects.

Council members Ed Hruska, Mark Hickey and Michael Wojcik voted against the added payments, saying they would like to see city staff research options for hiring staff rather than adding to consultant fees.

While he noted it’s unlikely the city would hire a new staff member within weeks, Hickey said he’d prefer delaying the contract addition until city staff could research options for the next steps.

“I don’t see it as being time critical,” he said. “The fact that the contractor started at risk — that’s what at risk means when you start at risk.”

Assistant City Administrator Aaron Parrish said the ongoing work is critical to complying with DMC requirements.

“These projects are under construction, so we have to do the active monitoring,” he said.

In the end, the council agreed unanimously to ask city staff to research options for monitoring future projects.

“We’re going to have more than two DMC projects every year for 20 years, so there has to be a better way to do this,” Wojcik said.

In other business, the council:

• Approved a $59,860 contract with Damon Farber Landscape Architects for a feasibility study and conceptual design for a Festival Street as suggested in the city’s Downtown Master Plan. The Festival Street would be a potential one-block space in front of the Rochester Public Library.

• Approved adding $745,487 to the contract with Bolton and Menk for final design services, property acquisition services and other related project tasks related to the planned reconstruction of North Broadway Avenue between Civic Center Drive and 13th Street.

• Approved the distribution of $697,800 in Community Development Block Grant funds. The awards included $568,672 for the city’s housing rehabilitation program, $50,000 for the new Thrive Child Care and Family Resource Center, $23,628 for Ability Building Center and $5,500 for Bear Creek Services. Additionally, $50,000 is being used to administer the program.

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