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I live and work in the Rochester community. I am the senior property manager at the Sibley Building and a county taxpayer. After reading the recent RBJ opinion piece by Monroe Community College president Anne Kress ("Misinformation clouds integrity of MCC process," RBJ, 3/1/13), I feel there are some issues that need clarification. I deeply care about the Sibley Building and the future of downtown Rochester. I am also concerned about the fiscal responsibility of our county.
Monroe Community College wants to move its downtown campus from the Sibley Building to an Eastman Kodak Co. property. This will cost at least $72 million. New York will be responsible for $36 million, and the taxpayers of Monroe County will be responsible for the other $36 million. The county will have to purchase and own the buildings at the Kodak site for this move to happen. President Kress suggests that continued review of the process is unnecessary. Isn't it perfectly acceptable and appropriate for the students, county and taxpayers to ask questions and fully vet all aspects of a project that will cost us tens of millions of dollars?
The Sibley option costs $18 million less than the Kodak proposal because it renovates and expands existing campus space rather than constructing it. As any homeowner knows, you can build a new house for one price or renovate and modernize your existing house for half the cost. The ultimate quality and size will be the same, but your wallet will certainly feel different.
We are committed to making the downtown MCC campus at Sibley a top-of-the-line urban campus, and our plan does not sacrifice quality and pays prevailing wages. As we all know, the future of downtown and the Sibley Building has changed for the better. Who wouldn't be interested in hearing more?
President Kress suggests there is $25 million of state funding available for the MCC relocation. While she does not think that obtaining $13 million of this will be difficult, the current fiscal climate in Albany argues otherwise. And even if MCC can secure every penny of that $25 million, where will the other $11 million of Monroe County's share come from? This is certainly a question that needs to be answered before this plan moves forward.
The fact is that the ownership of the Sibley Building has changed. WinnCompanies has been in business for 40 years and is recognized nationally for high-quality work. In fact, we have already successfully revitalized 17 other large-scale historic buildings. We care about Rochester, and we care about the future of this great school and this great property. We have asked to present our proposal to the MCC board of trustees and have been refused in writing on two separate occasions.
I believe that Monroe Community College is a great community college. I think it provides an excellent education for its students. I agree that the students of the college should expect and deserve the best. I am a committed partner to provide an extremely high-quality downtown campus at the Sibley Building. I hope that the county and Monroe Community College take a closer look at our proposal. I hope that the taxpayers of our county ask questions. I know that it is not MCC's job to watch out for the taxpayers of Monroe, but as a longtime resident of Monroe County, fiscal responsibility is important to me. I know I am not alone.
Beth Hartman is the senior property manager of the Sibley Building.3/29/13 (c) 2013 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.