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Council sets project list for sales-tax extension

A $160 million slate of projects to be funded with a possible extension of Rochester's half-cent sales tax was approved by the city council Monday unanimously and without discussion.

The council previously reviewed a list of projects recommended by a committee of 12 people. The final list is slightly rearranged from the committee's recommendation.

The projects, arranged in five categories, include:

• Higher education: $14 million for academic and complementary facilities for the University of Minnesota-Rochester; $6.5 million for a technical education and math-and-science center at Rochester Community and Technical College; and $6 million to add seats, locker rooms and concession stands at the RCTC sports dome.

• Transportation: $10 million for a new terminal building at Rochester International Airport; $3 million for a city bus garage; $46.8 million for area road projects, including a new U.S. 52 interchange at 65th Street Northwest.


• Economic development: $5 million to establish a city economic development fund; $8 million for downtown infrastructure improvements; and $25 million for the Destination Medical Community initiative.

• Public safety: $8 million to build a northeast fire station and dispatch center.

• Regional/community facilities: $26 million to expand Rochester Recreation Center with a new senior center; $11 million to add a third floor to the Rochester Public Library; and $3.5 million to expand the former Holmes Elementary School for the Boys and Girls Club and Child Care Resource and Referral.

Extending Rochester's sales tax, which is due to expire in 2011 or 2012, based on the rate of collections, requires legislative and voter approval. The tax has been in place since 1983.

Budget approved

A $175 million budget, supported by a 3.5 percent tax levy increase, was approved unanimously.

The $45.8 million levy, up $1.56 million from the 2010 tax levy, is one of the city's smallest tax increases in years. Nevertheless, the city will spend $2 million more next year on public safety. Savings will come from 19 positions that will be left vacant and from cuts in capital improvements.

Liquor license application


A controversy over a bar-and-grill proposed near Crossroads in southeast Rochester was defused when the applicant withdrew the request for a liquor license.

On Dec. 6, the council instructed City Attorney Terry Adkins to prepare legal findings of fact to deny a license to Braat'z Bar and Grill. On Friday, owner Tawonda Burks sent a letter to the city clerk's office withdrawing the application.

The business was proposed for the former Hardee's at South Broadway and 12th Street. Neighbors told the council two weeks ago they were concerned about traffic, bar hours and crime.

Police officers described problems with Burks' previous Rochester restaurant, Windy City Bar & Grill, which became associated with gang activity.

Nowicki's last meeting

Monday's council meeting was the last for longtime member Bob Nowicki.

Nowicki, who represents Ward 5 in northeast Rochester, is stepping down after eight years. He is being replaced by Randy Staver, who was elected in November.

"It's been a joy," Nowicki said. "We have one outstanding city. I believe it, and I'm very proud to have been part of it."


Nowicki will spend time volunteering, including with RNeighbors, the city's neighborhood resource center.

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