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HERO Center slips into city budgets

The original floor plan of the HERO Center will likely be pared down to make up for receiveing less than requested in the state bonding bill. Courtesy of the city of Woodbury

COTTAGE GROVE — Woodbury and Cottage Grove will issue bonds to finance the soon-to-be-constructed HERO Center.

The Health and Emergency Response Occupations, or HERO, Center was funded in part by the state in the bonding bill this spring, but Woodbury and Cottage Grove still have the other half to split and pay.

Gov. Mark Dayton allocated $9.5 million to the facility, $200,000 short of what the cities requested.

Cottage Grove and Woodbury have both added $5.26 million to their capital improvement plans over the next five years for the center.

Woodbury plans to issue 20-year general obligation bonds by the end of the year; there will be a public hearing at the Aug. 22 City Council meeting.

Cottage Grove Finance Director Robin Roland said the city anticipates bonding up to $4 million for the project. The city will essentially have to bond less because the state and city of Woodbury are reimbursing Cottage Grove a combined $1.1 million for the land and associated infrastructure at the future HERO Center site.

Due to the shortfall in the bonding bill, the cities will bid various options designed by architecture firm Leo A. Daly to see which model has the best outcome depending on what is left out of the facility to help cut costs.

With everything included, the facility is 41,000-square-feet and includes areas for several training types including reality-based, virtual reality, firearm and response to resistance.

Roland said the cities conservatively estimate about a $100,000 total operating budget for the first couple years, and are still working on securing partnerships that will pay to use the facility to train.

"I have zero concern that this isn't going to be filled," Mayor Myron Bailey said at a June 20 workshop to discuss the funding.

City Administrator Charlene Stevens said the city expects a fall groundbreaking to begin construction, and likely start operating late 2019 or early 2020.

2020 vision

Cottage Grove's 2019 budget will stay mostly baseline with what was estimated last year, with no visible increase from the HERO Center.

Woodbury estimates a tax increase of $12 for a median income household in 2019 based on the overall budget.

The year 2020 could see a steep levy increase, due in part to the HERO Center and other capital projects such as a new cooling system to the Cottage Grove Ice Arena.

Those two projects will cause a 7.4 percent increase to the levy in 2020. That's without factoring any other departmental increases, or upcoming projects such as 80th Street reconstruction and the future community center.

Though the numbers look a bit frightful, Roland said the growth in the city will keep up with the needed increase for these upcoming projects, and residents are likely to see similar tax payments to past years.