With deadline looming, Cottage Grove parks referendum undecidedCottage Grove has planned and debated for nearly a decade about what recreational facilities to add to the city. Now, as a deadline for submitting ballot questions for inclusion in November’s elections looms, city officials still haven’t finalized what package of parks improvements they’ll put before voters in a referendum this fall.
Cottage Grove has planned and debated for nearly a decade about what recreational facilities to add to the city.
Now, as a deadline for submitting ballot questions for inclusion in November’s elections looms, city officials still haven’t finalized what package of parks improvements they’ll put before voters in a referendum this fall.
City Council members on Wednesday will work to finalize which of four proposed park and recreation projects they want on the Nov. 6 ballot. The city will ask voters to approve a bump in taxes to help finance millions of dollars in long-planned upgrades and additions, but must submit ballot questions to the Minnesota secretary of state by Aug. 24.
"Whether there's one question, two questions, three questions, I don't know that," said City Administrator Ryan Schroeder following a City Council and Parks and Recreation Commission workshop Aug. 8 that ended without providing a clear direction.
City officials have narrowed the options to four proposed park projects:
-- An estimated $6 million expansion and upgrade of Hamlet Park on the city’s west side that would improve existing ball fields, trails, play equipment, parking lots, utilities and open space areas. It also would construct a splash pad and an additional four baseball fields.
-- An estimated $6.5 million outdoor aquatic facility with a water play area, deep pool for swim lanes and water slides.
-- The re-use of a building at the city’s now-closed municipal pool as an indoor play facility. Cottage Grove closed the aging pool last year, saying it had become too expensive to maintain and operate.
-- Bond for $700,000 to purchase farmland east of Lamar Park in Old Cottage Grove that would be used for the future expansion of softball fields there.
Cottage Grove Athletic Association softball board members last week lobbied the city to include the Lamar land buy among the proposed projects that go before voters, telling council and commission members that Cottage Grove’s existing municipal softball fields are too spread out and in too poor a condition to host large tournaments. The city’s roughly 500 youth softball players, CGAA softball backers said, deserve “a home.”
That proposal, however, has so far garnered the least amount of support among city officials. A recent community survey also showed relatively flimsy levels of support for the land purchase among likely voters, as well, with higher levels of enthusiasm shown for the other improvements.
“To me, the need isn’t clear,” council member Derrick Lehrke said of the group’s request for more softball fields. CGAA softball representatives said the number of softball fields available isn’t the problem. That, Lehrke said, could make it difficult to sell to voters.
Even if the city goes forward with purchasing more land near Lamar, Schroeder said new softball fields aren’t currently included in the city’s five-year capital improvement plan.
Council members are scheduled to meet for a workshop Wednesday at Cottage Grove City Hall to discuss the proposed 2013 budget and the parks referendum.