New director joins Rochester Community House
Rochester Principal Shopping District President Alan Smith was welcomed by Rochester City Council members on Monday, May 14, as the new executive director of the Rochester Community House. Smith is replacing longtime director Mary Lee Kowalczyk, who announced her retirement this year, after more than 42 years as executive director. Kowalczyk was recognized by city council members and a representative for U.S. Congressman Mike Bishop (R-Rochester), who had previously read a commemoration in Kowalczyk's honor on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. "I have a stack of letters this thick asking council to support the Community House," Rochester Mayor Rob Ray said, signaling the public's support for the non-profit. "If anyone is concerned about the longevity of the Community House, just look to our new director." The change in leadership is followed by an amended two-year contract between the Rochester Community House and the city. The agreement extends the current contract, which was initially approved in 2014. However, the amended contract includes some slight changes. Under the amended agreement – which was approved by council by a vote of 6-1 with councilwoman Ann Peterson voting against it – the city will have access to the Community House building via keys and alarm codes, and the city will be able to use the building and property rent free for various events. The non-profit organization will also be required to pay for all utilities, including gas and electric, the later two beginning in June of 2019. Currently, the city pays for gas and electric services at the building. The contract also requires the Rochester Community House and city to appoint a committee with three representatives from the city and three from the Community House, to negotiate a new contract by June 18, 2020. "It's an excellent agreement," said councilwoman Nancy Salvia. "It gives Alan some runway to get in there and polish the gem. There may be some other thoughts, but a multi-year agreement gives Alan, the board and the community a chance to rally behind the Community House." Peterson said she had hoped for more information about operations and other details to be presented to council prior to the proposed agreement being presented. "I just feel like things are done without anyone knowing, and it just happens," Peterson said. "This doesn't address how we will manage it in the future. I think this agreement needs more teeth to protect us as a city."