Cottage Grove residents to receive information on city's upcoming parks referendumThe city next month will mail thousands of full-color brochures to residents along with their monthly water bills. The aim, city officials say, is to inform voters on what the two ballot questions and $13.5 million in proposed projects would mean for the city’s park system — and their pocketbooks.
After nearly a decade of planning by city officials, Cottage Grove voters will decide Nov. 6 on more than $13 million in proposed park additions and improvements.
But, despite the years of work that went into getting the issue to the ballot, city officials can only educate voters on the park projects, not advocate on behalf of them.
“Our mission is to communicate,” City Administrator Ryan Schroeder said recently, “not to market.”
The city next month will mail thousands of full-color brochures to residents along with their monthly water bills. The aim, city officials say, is to inform voters on what the two ballot questions and $13.5 million in proposed projects would mean for the city’s park system — and their pocketbooks.
The city is asking voters to approve borrowing to pay for the construction of an estimated $6.5 million family aquatic center that would feature water slides and play areas. A second question will seek approval to borrow up to $7 million to renovate existing facilities, add baseball diamonds, a splash pad and a trail connection at Hamlet Park, and convert a disused building at the former municipal pool into an indoor/outdoor youth play center.
The $13.5 million would cover only construction costs; annual operating costs would be borne by user fees and city tax dollars
Whether residents support the referendum or oppose it, above all, city officials said, they want to hear from voters about whether they want to see the proposed park improvements come to fruition.
“The first goal, in all of this, is to make sure people vote,” Zac Dockter, the city’s parks and recreation director, said of the city’s efforts to educate voters. “The community needs to vote. Even if they vote ‘no,’ at least we know.”
If both questions are OK’d by voters, property taxes on a home valued at $175,000 would increase by $54 a year, according to estimates provided by the city. The resulting property tax increase would be $74 per year on a $230,000 property.
No group has yet stepped forward publicly to stir support for the wide-ranging parks referendum. Mayor Myron Bailey, who was among four City Council members who voted to put the question on the Nov. 6 ballot, says he will voice support for the proposed projects in individual conversations with voters as part of his re-election campaign this fall.
Despite that, though, city materials on the referendum will do no more than provide information to voters, he says.
“This is, ‘Here’s what it’s going to be,’”Bailey said of the brochures going out in coming weeks. “That’s all the city can really do.”
The more residents who vote on the city of Cottage Grove’s parks referendum the better, officials say.
So, city officials have expressed some concern that referendum Question No. 1 will appear on the front of voters’ Nov. 6 ballot, while Question No. 2 will appear on the back. Myron Bailey said that could lead to more votes — and a clearer picture of residents’ views — on the question of whether to construct an outdoor family aquatic center than on the question that seeks to borrow to build an indoor/outdoor youth play center and expand Hamlet Park.
“I’d hate to have a lot of people vote on page one and not on page two,” Bailey said recently. “That would be concerning to me.”
The more votes — whether ‘yes’ or ‘no’ — cast the better idea the city has going forward of the direction residents want Cottage Grove’s park system to go, Bailey said.