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Cottage Grove city hall opponents plan rally; supporters to counter-demonstrate

Opponents of Cottage Grove's proposed city hall/public safety building plan a rally and march against the project tonight, and supporters of the project are quietly organizing a counter-demonstration.

City Council member Derrick Lehrke and residents opposed to the $16.2 million building distributed fliers and used a website and social media this week to promote a "walk to be heard" on the project. Lehrke has promoted the event but said he is not leading the effort.

"This is your opportunity to become involved and be heard," an announcement for the rally reads. "Invite your neighbors and friends, bring your signs and make a statement for fiscal responsibility for Cottage Grove."

Opponents, who argue the public has been denied a vote on the project, plan to rally outside Park High School at 6:30 p.m. before walking down 80th Street to Cottage Grove City Hall for the council meeting.

Meanwhile, City Council member Jen Peterson, who backs the construction project, distributed an email Tuesday night asking people who support the project to show up at the council meeting. Peterson asked in the email that supporters not advertise the counter-demonstration on Facebook so that they surprise the opponents at the meeting.

Opponents think that the project does not have public support, Peterson said.

"I think it's important to show that, nope, we're not kidding, there are people in support of it," she said in an interview. "We're not just doing this for ourselves."

Peterson said in her email that the opponents are posting "crap" about the project on two "looney" websites.

The city is moving forward with construction of a new city hall and public safety building. The council voted last week to approve the final plans and is expected to soon open the project to bids. Construction could begin this fall. The proposed building site is near Ravine Parkway and County Highway 19/Keats Avenue.

Opponents of the building plan have argued it should be put up for a public vote. Mayor Myron Bailey and a majority of the council support the project without a referendum, arguing the building is needed.

The City Council meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. There is an open forum session at 7:15 p.m. City Hall is at 7516 80th St.

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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