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How will planning shift proceed?

September 23, 2018

The move to establish new planning operations in Rochester city government isn’t expected to create a funding drain on operations at the Rochester-Olmsted County Planning Department.

Olmsted County Administrator Heidi Welsch said estimates show that approximately $500,000 in fees will shift from the county to the city after Rochester’s Community Development Department is formed.

“The amount of staff we are going to lose is going to be more than that,” Welsch told the Olmsted County Board’s administrative committee this week.

At the same time, she noted the existing staff is being told they will not be forced to leave the joint department, which is staffed entirely by county employees.

“Nobody has to go, and nobody has to stay,” Welsch said. “I suspect we will have some people who want to go, since this is the work they are working on.”

The Community Development Department will take over much of the planning efforts related to new development in the city, meaning a large portion of work done in a section of the existing planning office.

However, Welsch noted Friday some of the current staff will likely remain in place, since the department also deals with zoning violations and other concerns that won’t be part of the new city department.

Where six people work in planning-related roles under current Planning Supervisor Mark Engel, Welsch said the number could drop to three, with the potential for shifting other staffing within the county-run department.

She estimated the county could end up with five to six fewer planning department employees once Rochester’s department is in place.

Rochester City Administrator Steve Rymer said the process is expected to start within a week, when the city posts its opening for a new department director.

That director will work with Assistant City Administrator Aaron Parrish and county staff to develop a plan for shifting duties to the city with an anticipated July 1 deadline.

“I think it’s going to be pretty fluid,” Rymer said, noting city staff could start working on new projects before July 1, if enough staff is in place.

Welsch and Rymer said other specific details of the transition are still being considered.

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