Rochester City Council approves $500K for public utility study

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ROCHESTER , N.Y. — Tuesday night, Rochester City Council voted to set aside $500,000 for a public utility study .

The City Council also voted on over a billion-dollar budget for the Rochester City School District.

These two big votes involved a lot of your tax dollars.

It was a packed house at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. Hundreds of people were in attendance, many of them supporters of replacing RG&E with a public utility company.

“It means that we can get out from under the thumb of billionaires that are sucking the wealth out of our community,” Jack Siaml, an RG&E customer, said.

Community advocate group Metro Justice believes a public utility company is necessary. They also believe funding the study is the next step in making that happen.

Members are calling Tuesday’s vote a huge win for the City of Rochester.

“We really do applaud the City Council members that made this possible. The public wants, demands, and needs an alternative to RG&E and we are not going to stop until we get it,” Kinra Johnson, Metro Justice volunteer, said.

Mayor Malik Evans initially had concerns about the city using $500,000 to fund a study for the public utility without the help of others.

City Council President Miguel Melendez explained: “The City will not do an RFP (Request for Proposal) on its own. And this would authorize the Mayor to enter into an agreement with the county or counties or the state to really look at this. There’s not an action that will be taken by city government that is without a larger entity of government taking the lead.”

RG&E responded and said in a statement:

“Our position is, and has always been, that a government-controlled utility is not the answer for Rochester. Service and reliability will be compromised, while putting taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars by significantly raising rates, jeopardizing needed grid improvements, and halting any transition to clean energy. RG&E has made significant improvements to customer service, drastically lessening customer wait times, improving the accuracy of billing and hiring hundreds of new staff. We will continue this tireless work to address any additional customer needs while investing in upgrades to our aging infrastructure and supporting business and community development throughout our region.”

RG&E will host a customer service pop-up on Wednesday, June 21, at the Baden Street Settlement from 2 to 5 p.m.

City Council also voted to approve the mayor’s $675 million budget, but the vote was close: 5-4.
Another item up for consideration: the more than $1 billion Rochester City School District budget. It’s the first time ever the district budget has topped a billion dollars. In a symbolic vote with no bearing on the outcome, many City Council members opposed the district’s spending plan.