City axes land purchase deal with Rochester Fair board

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The city will now look elsewhere for a pubic works facility. (Courtesy photo)

ROCHESTER - City leaders today on Monday night to cease all negotiations with the Rochester Agricultural and Mechanical Association (RAMA) with regard to a proposed land purchase.

The city had considered locating its planned public works facility on an 11-acre section of the Rochester Fairgrounds after RAMA approached the city about its interest in selling some portion of the property.

City Manager Dan Fitzpatrick stated that twice in 2017 members of the RAMA Board approached him about the possibility of the city purchasing RAMA property. The second time that he had been approached by Board members of RAMA, they asked about the possibility of selling a portion of the property specifically for a public works facility. Negotiations began in the Fall of 2017.

During negotiations, the City of Rochester gave RAMA a March 1 deadline for a signed and executed purchase and sale agreement in order for the city to meet the ideal construction timeline for 2018. When that deadline passed, RAMA Director Donald Whittum asked that the negotiations be suspended until RAMA received a new appraisal for the 11 acres. The city agreed to a one-month extension, which has since elapsed.

"Our sole responsibility as a city government is to the taxpaying residents and business owners of Rochester, and a large purchase such as this must be conducted with all due diligence performed," City Manager Fitzpatrick said. "Unfortunately this purchase no longer makes financial or practical sense, and it is our responsibility to go no further in this process."

During negotiations, the asking price for the property more than doubled. Additionally, there have been several recent news articles about sweeping changes to the RAMA board and staff. The price, the timing, and other logistical concerns ultimately raised concerns on the part of the City of Rochester about its ability to finalize a major real estate transaction with RAMA, making a deal untenable.

"We are ready to move forward with another location for our new public works facility and cannot delay this any longer. A new DPW facility is our top capital priority," said Fitzpatrick. "The location at the Fairgrounds was a good one for the facility and would have provided funds for RAMA to use as it saw fit. Ultimately, we have to make a responsible decision. We have other options and have concluded our negotiations."

(John Guilfoil writes for the City of Rochester.)

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