The Town of Rochester will hold a referendum on Tuesday, December 7 to seek residents’ approval of a proposal to buy the former Skate Time 209 building and six acres, located at the corner of Route 209 and Mettacahonts Road, for a purchase price of $2,060,000. The referendum also seeks approval for the Town to raise 30-year bond funding (plus the issuance of shorter term bond anticipation notes until such bond is raised) to finance the purchase. The current owners purchased the property for $1.3 million in June 2019, representing a gain to the sellers of $760,000.
While we applaud the Town Board’s decision to put this matter to a referendum, that spirit of openness and citizen participation has been clouded by the lack of a holistic plan to see where the acquisition of this 30,000 square foot building fits into the Town’s current and anticipated needs for office space, or a master plan for recreational space needs. Even if the acquisition does make sense after a thorough evaluation of all alternatives, the contractual provision that allows the seller to use the facility six times per year for its own activities, as well as the requirement that the seller’s name be retained in the facility’s future name, is highly irregular.
Town office spaces are cramped and do need an upgrade and the current situation with Town offices located in many locations is not optimal. We believe that prior to investing in any new facilities, a complete needs assessment must be completed to determine what current and future office space the Town might need and what the configuration of what that space might take, as well multiple alternative plans showing total costs and benefits. Such an assessment should also include budgets for the eventual reconfiguration. It is surprising that the Town Board entered into a purchase contract without conducting such a study, or obtaining estimates on the cost of reconfiguring this space to suit the Town’s needs.
Part of the Skate Time 209 building might be available for recreational space. Has the Town Board considered the cost of operating recreational plans and what specific types of programs would be offered? Are there alternative facilities, including the ones currently used? No specific plans have been presented to the community for the use of this building or the potential associated capital and operating costs.
We believe that the referendum is premature and believe that voters deserve more information on how this proposed acquisition fits into the Town’s future plans. It is unfair to the community to ask for a referendum without this critical information. Under normal circumstances, we would ask the Town Board to delay the referendum until more information is provided, however, a delay of the referendum is not possible in accordance with NY State law. Therefore, a “NO” vote is the only option to delay this process until further information can be obtained.
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