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Cottage Grove motors along with building plan

Cottage Grove is not getting a Cadillac in its new government center, but it cannot keep cruising along in a Yugo either, the mayor said.

City Council members recently received a progress report on planning for the city's new city hall and public safety facility, getting a preview of a pair of rough drafts of the building's layout and declaring support for a design that the project's architect says will offer the public views of a neighboring ravine.

Cottage Grove Mayor Myron Bailey said the designs "show a middle-of-the-road city hall facility." It was a response to criticisms by council member-elect Derrick Lehrke in a newspaper article published last Wednesday in which the vocal opponent of the project said the city was set to build a "Cadillac" of a building and hadn't explored less expensive options.

"We'd probably say it's a Chevy Malibu," Bailey said, continuing a car analogy. Trying to assure residents who have expressed concerns with the project, Bailey said the city is " "being very, very careful with the taxpayer dollars we have been entrusted with."

The building lobby layout represented the only major difference between two nearly identical proposed designs presented during a planning update of the multi-million dollar public facility delivered by John McNamara of St. Paul-based Wold Architects and Engineers, the firm hired by the city this summer to design the building. McNamara said the planning process is roughly halfway finished.

The design that officials spoke in favor of Wednesday offers "a visual connection to the ravine," Wold's McNamara said. "It's a different orientation for the public when they come in the building."

City Council members will vote on final, detailed building designs at their Dec. 15 meeting, when they will also hear an estimated cost for the building. The council has set a $17 million budget for the project, but officials have said they expect the final cost to be millions less.

Without detailed designs, what Wold publicly unveiled last week were sketches of how the forthcoming building will be laid out. But even a rough draft was enough to excite Craig Woolery, the city's public safety director. The designs show a roomier public safety garage, and evidence and detention areas adjacent to the garage. Most of the building's costs are related to public safety, Bailey said.

City officials say the current facility lacks adequate garage space, detention areas and evidence storage, as well as a laundry list of other deficiencies.

"It's almost like getting a real roof after living in a tent for so long," Woolery said.

Architects have been meeting bi-weekly with a planning group comprised of city staff and Bailey and council member Pat Rice to determine what the city wants to see in a new government building.