Viewpoint: The economy’s effects close to homeWhile the state and federal governments try to figure out how to balance their budgets, the City of Cottage Grove is currently setting its 2010 and 2011 budgets
By: Myron Bailey, South Washington County Bulletin
While the state and federal governments try to figure out how to balance their budgets, the City of Cottage Grove is currently setting its 2010 and 2011 budgets. I want to keep the citizens informed on what is happening on a variety of issues facing Cottage Grove.
Budgeting for 2010 and 2011: Cottage Grove gets zero Local Government Aid (LGA) from the State of Minnesota. We have not received LGA funding since 2003. The state has rescinded a payment planned for 2010 of additional state aid (MVHC) in the amount of $589,000. Even with these losses, we have managed our budgets over the past few years by cutting expenses, reducing staff counts, keeping some positions vacant and pushing off some projects to future years. We are expecting to keep our budget in line as to provide a tax decrease to the median valued home in 2010. That does not mean things will come to a halt in Cottage Grove. We have dedicated monies in different accounts to get some projects done in 2010. I have also made a point to talk to my fellow mayors in St. Paul Park, Newport and Woodbury to find ways of working together to cut costs by sharing services and/or purchasing items in bulk. Together, we will get through this downturn in the economy.
I also want to thank all city staff for doing such a tremendous job working with less in this tough environment. I appreciate your hard work and dedication to the citizens of Cottage Grove by understanding the tax implications on the average home and business owner. Your efforts do not go unnoticed.
Water Quality: We recently went through a biomonitoring update to measure the level of PFCs in the blood of residents on private wells. I have asked the Minnesota Department of Health to do additional testing and to include testing of citizens on the public water supply. We are being told that the levels are safe, but I would like more assurances through further monitoring into the future. We will continue to push for testing of both public and private wells to monitor the levels of PFCs in the water. Any changes will be brought forth to the citizens of Cottage Grove. Clean-up of the 3M Woodbury site will begin this year, and the 3M Cottage Grove Site will begin next year.
3M Incinerator: We have created an Environmental Task Force to look into the effects of the 3M incinerator in Cottage Grove. This will be the first action taken by this task force. They will give a recommendation to the City Council if they believe the plan by 3M to burn outside waste should move forward or not. After that is resolved, they will proceed to look at other environmental effects in Cottage Grove to include the PFC issue.
Community Center Task Force: The Community Center Task Force is up and running. They are gathering information and compiling a list of ideas and possible amenities should a Community Center be recommended in the future. This Task Force consists of 30-plus members of all genders, ages and groups within Cottage Grove. Look for more information later in the year.
Residential and business growth: With the current economy, you can see the effects of the recession around town with vacant buildings and empty lots. Your city council and staff are not sitting idly by and hoping for things to change. We are currently looking at a new marketing campaign for Cottage Grove to bring new business to Cottage Grove — not just to build in the open areas, but to fill in where buildings currently sit vacant. We are in constant contact with the various landowners and leasing agents to keep abreast of what’s happening with their projects. We are currently planning some major events in October. These events will involve bringing various developers to town to see what Cottage Grove has to offer! There is still a lot of interest out there. I believe that once we start coming out of this slump in the economy, you will see a major push on new business and housing growth in Cottage Grove. And as I have said before, should you know of a business looking for a new home, give me a call or e-mail and I would be happy to talk to them about the benefits of locating in Cottage Grove.
Other actions we are currently working on:
n Interviewing to fill our finance director position.
n Enhancing human resource staffing to better align all departments on policies, performance reviews and hiring.
n Understanding the impact of the ash borer issue and the possible effects on Cottage Grove.
n Implementing our Housing Rehabilitation Program within the foreclosure market to maintain stability of neighborhoods within the community.
n Working on federal funding to rebuild the County Road 19 interchange with new frontage roads connecting Langdon with County Road 19, and creating better access to the future retail complex on the drive-in site and the Langdon Commuter Rail Station.
I have truly enjoyed my first seven months in office. It has been challenging in dealing with the budget issues coming down from the state and federal levels. I would have preferred to be talking about what new businesses are coming to town, than dealing with how to save a dollar or two, but we will get through this downturn in the economy and be a better, more efficient local government because of it!
Myron Bailey is mayor of Cottage Grove. He can be reached at (651) 459-4734 or email@example.com.