Cottage Grove City Hall project a hot-button issue in mayor's raceMyron Bailey aggressively advocated for the new City Hall as critical to city operations, and the facility is one of the most recognizable aspects of his three-plus years as mayor. His two main opponents — Chad Rediske and Chad Magle — see it as a poor choice and have campaigned against it.
For Myron Bailey, the timing of the recent grand opening of the new Cottage Grove City Hall couldn’t have been better — or, worse, depending on your view of the $15.1 million project.
Bailey aggressively advocated for the building as critical to city operations, and the facility is one of the most recognizable aspects of his three-plus years as mayor. His two main opponents — Chad Rediske and Chad Magle — see it as a poor choice and have campaigned against it.
Doing nothing, Bailey said, would have been easier. Putting off plans to build what the city has asserted was a badly-needed new City Hall and public safety facility would have been safer, certainly.
Instead, in 2010, city officials began moving forward with the construction of a new 67,000- square-foot facility, courting some controversy along the way. The process culminated with a ceremony celebrating the project’s completion with speeches and a public open house.
“It would have been much easier, and safer politically,” to put off again the construction of a new city hall, Bailey said during the Oct. 20 ceremony that marked substantial completion of the building at 12800 Ravine Parkway.
He continued: “This council did not defer. It made the tough decision.”
It is a tough decision, the mayor contends, that will pay dividends for the city’s current and future taxpayers, improving efficiency and helping Cottage Grove better serve its residents.
Those opposed to the project have attempted to use the new City Hall against Bailey since 2010, variously calling the project unneeded, too expensive and poorly planned, or criticizing the city for not putting the project on the ballot for voters to decide.
The mayor, though, has brushed off that criticism, repeating the facility was “a need [not] a want,” and stressing the city built the building without raising property taxes.
“It was always going to be a tough decision whenever you build anything,” Bailey said in an interview.
Bailey’s mayoral race opponents aren’t buying it, saying they still disagree, in part at least, with the city’s decision to move ahead with the project in the face of a struggling economy.
“The building itself is one of the most ostentatious structures in Cottage Grove,” said Rediske, disagreeing with city officials who have said the building is a modest new home for municipal operations. “It’s built for dignitaries, not working-class people.”
Rediske credited the city for setting aside some funding for the project — between $4 million and $5 million — but criticized city officials for financing the remaining cost of the project with internal fund reserves. Rediske said the city “wrote IOUs to four other cash accounts.”
Rediske said he “doesn’t begrudge [the city]” for making the decision to build a new City Hall but believes they could have done the project cheaper and without avoiding a referendum on borrowing that was originally the city’s preferred financing.
And while the project didn’t raise property taxes, Rediske said the city could have lowered them by paying off other outstanding debt before adding more.
Magle, another candidate opposing Bailey on next month’s ballot, the new City Hall was another example of city leadership not listening to voters.
“I wasn’t flatly opposed to the project,” Magle said. But, he added, the city financed the project itself to avoid placing the project in a referendum before voters.
Magle said he understands the need for a new public safety facility; the department’s current facility, in the four-decade-old building on 80th Street, is cramped and outmoded, city officials say, lacking office and interview space, evidence storage and privacy for crime victims who seek police help.
“We could have come up with a separate public safety building,” Magle said.
The city has said operating two separate buildings would have been more expensive in the long-term and much less efficient than an integrated general government and public safety building.
Lezlie Schriver, a fourth candidate whose name will be on the ballot for Cottage Grove mayor, is not running a visible campaign.