by Jeremy Moule
A measure that'll allow the county to borrow $28 million so Monroe Community College can buy and build a permanent city campus had no trouble passing during last night's County Legislature meeting.
Just before midnight, the 29 legislators unanimously approved a bonding package that included the MCC funding. The bond resolution, however, does not commit to a specific site. The college's Board of Trustees selected buildings on Kodak's State Street campus, which it wants to buy and renovate into a permanent downtown campus.
MCC President Anne Kress said that the site-neutral language in the bond won't be an issue for the college and that it's a very good thing that the Legislature passed the measure. Approval of the bond will allow the college to move forward with its effort to build and own a downtown campus, she said.
Earlier in the meeting, legislators heard from several faculty members and student body leaders encouraging them to pass the bond. Many of them stressed that the current campus in the Sibley building doesn't offer the space for programs to grow, nor does it have adequate space for the student body to hold events.
Joe Eddy, vice president of Winn Development, which now owns the Sibley building, also encouraged the Legislature to pass the bond resolution. The students and faculty at the city campus deserve an enhanced campus, he said. And the ongoing site selection process will result in the highest-quality campus, he said.
Even a month ago, it was uncertain whether the borrowing measure would get the two-thirds majority it needed to pass. Rochester Mayor Tom Richards was pushing back because he believed there were unaddressed issues with the college's preferred site. He has said that he wants MCC to stay in the Sibley building and Democrats in the county Legislature have sided with him.
But the mayor dropped his objection to the bond after he saw a draft resolution, which was site neutral. In a letter to Legislature president Jeff Adair, he said that the language "preserves a broad range of options that could serve the community well." Last night, several Legislature Democrats echoed the mayor in their comments.
Democratic Leader Carrie Andrews said that the site-neutral language of the bond allows for a discussion about the best location for the downtown campus.
While the college's board has selected a site for the campus, the issue isn't yet settled. The county owns all of the college's property in trust. Kress says that the Legislature will have to approve the acquisition of any building or buildings. In other words, if MCC reaches a deal with Kodak, then the Legislature has to sign off. But that won't be as heavy of a lift as the bond referral. Approval of an acquisition requires the support of a simple majority of legislators, versus the two-thirds majority required to bond. It'd only need 15 votes, versus the 20 required to bond.