The authority given Rochester’s park and library boards is up for review.
During its 3:30 p.m. meeting Wednesday, the Rochester City Council will hold a public hearing on proposed changes to the city’s home-rule charter, which would alter how the boards operate, if approved.
A split Rochester Charter Commission voted 9-5 last month to recommend changing how the two boards are defined in the city’s charter, which sets guidelines for city operations.
“In essence, the theme of the proposals is to move the authority of those boards to the advisory level,” Commission Chairman Fran Bradley said when the proposal was initially reviewed last year.
It's a discussion that started with questions raised by former Rochester council president Randy Staver in 2019.
The proposed changes would eliminate the boards’ oversight of department heads and shift fiscal responsibility to the City Council.
In a report to the City Council, Rochester City Attorney Jason Loos said it would also mean many of the decisions made by the boards would be handled by city staff.
Supporters of the changes have said the move will ultimately put the decisions in hands of the elected council, rather than appointed volunteers who fill the two boards.
Under current practice, the council sets the budget amounts for the Rochester Public Library and the Parks and Recreation Department, but the boards determine how the majority of funds are spent.
Commission Vice Chairman John Eckerman, who was part of a committee that produced the proposed charter changes, said he doesn’t consider them to be a major overhaul.
“We feel they are kind of minor changes,” he said.
Other commission members disagreed, saying the volunteer boards provide voices that represent the community.
It’s a view shared by members of the two boards in a letter to the Charter Commission, as well as the council.
“We feel the changes impede the ability to best serve the community with timely actions specific to the needs and interests of the library and parks,” the letter stated, adding that the boards’ decision powers ensure good people are involved setting strategic directions for the department and ensures community acceptance of decisions being made.
The letter also touted the boards’ ability to provide connection to the community that might be missed by elected council members.
“With appointed board members, not operating as a political entity, but rather as deeply engaged residents closely invested in the library and parks, we are directly influenced by the groups we represent,” the letter states.
The council could make a decision on the proposed change Wednesday, or it could delay action.
Anyone wanting to voice an opinion on the proposal can do so during the public hearing by calling 347-352-4853 and using the conference ID: 266 310 377#.
Members of the public are expected to mute their phones until public comment is requested during the hearing. At that point, dialing *6 will unmute the phone and enable the ability to provide comments to the council.
The meeting is also available live at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday through a link at www.rochestermn.gov/agendas and on Spectrum cable channel 180 or 188 and Metronet channel 80. The day of the meeting was changed to Wednesday, due to city offices being closed for the Presidents Day holiday on Monday.
Meetings scheduled to be held during the week of Feb. 15 include:
- Park Board study session, 4:45 p.m. Tuesday. Dial-in information for listening to the meeting live can be requested by emailing email@example.com. Video will be posted online following the meeting.
- City Council, 3:30 p.m. Wednesday. The meeting will livestream at www.rochestermn.gov/agendas and available on Spectrum cable channel 180 or 188 and Metronet channel 80.
- Library Board, 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. Video of the meeting will be posted online at www.rochestermn.gov/agendas the following day.
- Health, Housing and Human Services committee, 11 a.m. Tuesday. Information for connecting to the meeting is posted at http://olmstedcountymn.iqm2.com.
- Housing and Redevelopment Authority, 1 p.m. Tuesday in the board chambers of the government center. The meeting will be livestreamed at http://olmstedcountymn.iqm2.com.
- Administrative Committee, 2 p.m. Tuesday in the board chambers of the government center. The meeting will be livestreamed at http://olmstedcountymn.iqm2.com.
- Physical Development Committee, 2 p.m. Tuesday in conference room 2 of the government center. Information for connecting to the meeting is posted at http://olmstedcountymn.iqm2.com.
- Board of County Commissioners, 3 p.m. Tuesday in the board chambers of the government center. The meeting livestream is posted at http://olmstedcountymn.iqm2.com.
- Parks Commission, 5 p.m. Tuesday. Information for connecting to the online meeting is posted at http://olmstedcountymn.iqm2.com.
- Civil Service Commission, 8 a.m. Wednesday. Information for connecting to the online meeting is posted at http://olmstedcountymn.iqm2.com.
- Environmental Commission, 7:15 p.m. Wednesday. Information for connecting to the online meeting will be posted at http://olmstedcountymn.iqm2.com.
- Planning Advisory Commission, 7 p.m. Thursday in board chambers of the government center. The meeting will be livestreamed at http://olmstedcountymn.iqm2.com.
Rochester Public Schools
- School Board, 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the boardroom of the Edison Building, 615 Seventh St. SW. Meeting will livestream at YouTube.com/ISD535.