• Kevin Elliott

Rochester to revise city fees with master schedule

The city of Rochester will be revising fees charged for services provided by city departments under a new master fee schedule introduced to city council members on Monday, July 9.

Rochester City Manager Blaine Wing said the fee schedule would replace a combination of various fee schedules included in different ordinances, policies and resolutions and provide them in one document that would be revised annually. Additionally, he said many of the fees for services haven't been updated in several years, and in some cases decades. Unmodified fees, he said, may be so out of date that they no longer cover the cost of administering the service, meaning taxpayers ultimately end up paying for the user.

"This is a project that started when I first got here... it would put the fees into a master document that would be more easily accessible and transparent," he said.

The proposed fee schedule lists fees charged by the city and is categorized by department, with existing fees, proposed fees, where fees are located, for instance, whether by ordinance or policy. The document also includes the fee for the same service in similar municipalities, which was considered when proposing new fees.

Rochester Deputy Finance Director Marcy Moriwaki said the finance committee and staff considered labor charges, equipment and rental costs, state comparables, and contracted services the city pays when considering whether fees will cover the cost of service.

"It really boils down to transparency," she said, who said the fee schedule represents best practices of government finance.

No motion was made regarding the introduction of the fee schedule, with council members agreeing to review the proposed fees at future meetings.

Some of the most dramatic fee changes were included in those charged by the city's department of public works (DPW), as noted by city councilwoman Kim Russell. Those fees include increasing special pick ups by the DPW from a minimum of $6 to $70, which would include large area rugs from $6 to $70; washing machines, stoves, sinks and similar items from $6 to $196; overstuffed couches from $10 to $196; and other similar changes.

"We are changing so fast in Rochester that I don't think it's fair to residents," Russell said.

Moriwaki said the fee increases don't apply to similar pickups for the same items provided by the city's refuse hauler, Green For Life, which provides pickup of couches, sinks and similar items free of charge. She said while those items may require notice to GFL for pickup, they don't include special fees. However, special pickups by the DPW for a similar service would cost more. Those pickups, she said, aren't typical, but could be necessary when a resident or contractor is unable to wait to discard items until GFL is able to pick them up.

"We need to know that so we understand what we are voting for," Russell said. "For developers, that's probably a drop in the bucket, but for home owners, it's not."

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