ROCHESTER - Rochester's City Council on Tuesday voted to approve collective bargaining agreements for both police and fire departments, OK'd a solar farm on a Class 6 road and rezoned land near the former city DPW headquarters from Industrial to R-2, paving the way for what is expected to be an affordable housing complex.
Economic Development Director Mike Scala made the case for the rezoning, saying that the region's housing needs are critical to allow for further industrial and commercial development.
Mayor Paul Callaghan also pushed for the rezoning approval, saying that the neighborhood around the area, which is where he lives, is mostly residential and so it's a good fit. He also said the tax assessment for R-2 is double the industrial assessment, which is favorable to the city.
While Callaghan acknowledged that many critics of the rezoning have expressed fears that such a complex would lead to increase costs for city services like schools, police and fire, he said most of the residents of these apartments will be adult age working folk.
"There will be some children, but there won't be a lot of children," he said just prior to voting.
The motion to rezone carried easily with just City Councilor Steven Beaudoin voting no.
Scala noted that he was already in informal discussions with three entities that might be interested in developing the property.
Critics like Beaudoin and state rep Tom Kaczynski have labeled the affordable housing initiatives being undertaken by the city as taxpayer subsidized, largely through Gov. Chris Sununu's $100 million InvestNH Housing initiative.
Meanwhile, the four-year collective bargaining agreement increases police salaries by almost 15 percent in its first year which begins July 1, followed by roughly 6.5 percent, 5.2 percent and 4.5 percent in successive years.
The total wages paid to the department in the current fiscal year will jump from roughly $3.6 million to $4.2 million on July 1, $4.4 million next year, $4.7 in fiscal year 2026 and $4.9 million in 2027, the final year of the agreement.
Wages for the fire department went up similarly with an overall increase of 14 percent on July 1, with the following three years going up by 5.8 percent, 4.8 percent and 3.3 percent.
The department's total wages will increase to roughly $2.5 million when fiscal year 2024 begins on July 1.
Both collective bargaining agreements passed easily.
The council also approved the building of a solar farm on Shaw Drive, a Class 6 road, over the objections of the city, which had defined the array as a power generation utility.