Rochester, MN (KROC-AM News)- Olmsted County leaders moved forward on two key agenda items on Tuesday. 

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The county’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority Board greenlit the next phase of the plan to replace the Rochester Community Warming Shelter. The County Board of Commissioners then approved the maximum property tax increase for the county’s 2024 budget. 

Proposal to Replace Rochester Warming Center Moves Forward

Last week leaders from the county and the City of Rochester rolled out a proposal to transition the warming shelter to the Residences at Old Town Hall (ROTH) at 607 East Center St. in Rochester. The plans call for an estimated $13 million construction project to convert part of the building to an emergency homeless shelter that could house up to 80 people and provide services that officials say can help connect homeless individuals to permanent shelter. 

Front of Old Towne Hall. TSM Rochester/Preston
Front of Old Towne Hall. TSM Rochester/Preston

County leaders approved a resolution that authorized housing staff to apply for a $10 million state grant to cover the bulk of the construction costs. County leaders heard from neighbors during a public hearing held before Tuesday’s vote. 

Kim David/TSM
Kim David/TSM

Neighbors of the proposed shelter have criticized county leaders for what they described as a lack of notice that the old town hall building was being targeted as a replacement for the warming shelter in downtown Rochester. 

The neighbors have started a petition titled “Stop Plan to Use ROTH As Rochester Emergency Homeless Shelter” that has gathered over 320 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon. 

Olmsted County Commissioner Mark Thein voted to authorize county staff to apply for the grant. He shared the reasoning for his vote on social media following the meetings. 

The County will find out whether or not their funding request for the shelter has been approved by the end of the year. Officials estimate the shelter would be ready by 2025. 

County Board Approves Maximum Tax Levy Increase

The county commissioners also approved a resolution to set the ceiling for the county’s tax levy at $130,602,041, which would be a 5.2% increase. 

“There is a lot of analysis, discussion, and contemplation that goes into creating a workable budget for the county. Nationwide, everyone is facing inflation and rising health care costs, and that affects our work at the county as well,” explained Olmsted County Administrator Heidi Welsch in a statement. “Previously, to manage inflationary pressures, we had put several capital projects and equipment on hold, but we cannot afford to keep deferring this important work.” 

Board members also signed off on setting a Dec. 7 public hearing date regarding next year’s budget and a Dec. 19 vote to approve next year’s operating budget.

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