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If at first you don't succeed ... have a secret meeting till you do succeed

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From left, Dana Berlin, newly voted in Ward 5 councilor Alexander de Geofroy, Ashley Desrochers, Pete Lachapelle and Steven Beaudoin (Screenshot)

ROCHESTER - Plans for a third Rochester fire station moved forward in curious fashion on Tuesday when city councilors voted 10-3 to commit $299,000 to purchase land next to Bluebird Storage on Highland Street just 45 minutes after voting it down.

The initial vote taken at the 53-minute mark failed to get the two-thirds vote, which was needed as funding was from supplemental appropriation from the unassigned fund balance and not in the budget.

Voting against it were councilors Jim Gray, Amy Malone, Skip Gilman, Steven Beaudoin, and Mayor Paul Callaghan.

Abstaining on the vote was John Larochelle, who said he was a friend of the owner.

As the meeting was about to end, however, City Attorney Terence O'Rourke called for a nonmeeting, which is occasionally called by the city attorney on legal or due process grounds and is strictly confidential, Beaudoin said today.

While he couldn't divulge any of the back and forth at the meeting, Beaudoin did say "that timeliness was a factor."

The purchase and sale agreement obtained by The Rochester Voice shows that the owner of the property is Arthur Taylor Jr., of San Jose, Calif. The document was dated June 13 and required that conveyance be made no later than Wednesday.

The nonmeeting lasted about eight minutes after which a motion to reconsider was made. Moments later Malone and Callaghan had changed their minds and the vote was 10-3 to buy the land. This time Larochelle did not abstain and also voted for the purchase.

"I can tell you I was not happy with the outcome," said Beaudoin, who told the council that this is not the time to buy when the real estate market is so hot.

"It's going to come down, soon," he said today. "We're in a recession right now. It's bound to come down. I've been in the real estate market all my life and it goes up and down. Now is not the time."

Rochester City Manager Blaine Cox said the city has been contemplating building a third city fire station in East Rochester for some time and recently signed a purchase and sale agreement with the landowner prior to Tuesday's vote.

During a Special Meeting on June 21 Mayor Paul Callaghan brought forward a resolution for a supplemental appropriation of $299,000 for the purchase of 181 Highland St., a 6.46-acre parcel located to the north of Route 202 near the intersection of Highland and Eastern avenues. The parcel includes 635 feet of road frontage along Route 202.
Cox told The Voice last week that the city has been eyeing available property in East Rochester for a long time.
"The Fire Department has indicated for many years that a third fire station should be located in East Rochester," Cox said. "We have been simply keeping a watch out for suitable parcels, and this one is ideally located."
While Cox stated there has been longterm interest in a third stationhouse, there are "no prelim plans, no square footages, no type of building, no estimates of costs, no staffing projections, no vehicle numbers or types."
During a public hearing on the fire station land purchase Rochester state reps Cliff Newton, Tom Kaczynski both voice concerns over using the unassigned fund balance (cookie jar/slush fund) to overspend the tax cap.

The City Council also voted to allow residential housing inside The Ridge TIF District, with Gilman, Gray and Beaudoin opposed.

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