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State funding could draw more Cottage Grove ‘HERO’ partners

State funding toward a new law enforcement and emergency training facility may draw more project partners and help define the building’s use.

The city is seeking $1.46 million in state-borrowed public works funding this legislative session to pay for the rest of the pre-design and design work on the Health and Emergency Response Occupations Center.

“If we get preliminary authority, there will be growing interest from lots of different folks,” City Administrator Ryan Schroeder said.

The city already has partnered with Inver Hills Community College and Regions Hospital on the project, to be located next to Cottage Grove City Hall. Woodbury public safety officials have expressed interest in partnering, though the City Council has not formally approved an agreement.

The proposal calls for an indoor firearms range for law enforcement and the public; simulated firearms and emergency medical service technology; a driving simulator; and space for education and community use.

But the project is “malleable,” Schroeder said, and the design will depend on the partners involved.

“Assuming we get an authorization here and as we start moving toward design, we’ll attract additional interest and we’ll have to have discussions on the early stage as to space needs,” Schroeder said. “That will evolve a little bit, I’m sure, because it always, always does.”

The city’s initial state funding hopes are in a bill by Rep. Dan Schoen of St. Paul Park and Sen. Katie Sieben of Cottage Grove that would authorize the $1.46 million from the Minnesota State Colleges and University System’s portion of the 2014 bonding bill. They introduced the bill last week. The broader public works spending package which may include HERO funding likely will not be finalized until the end of the legislative session in May.

Local officials already presented the HERO proposal to the House and Senate bonding committees.

“A lot of things are ready to go so it’s pretty primed,” Schoen said.

The city would use the sale of revenue bonds to finance a required $5 million local match. Those bonds would be repaid with facility user fees. Schroeder said if the local match were increased he is less confident the city could repay the bonds strictly with facility user fees.

The local project financing cannot be petitioned and put to a community vote, unlike a financing plan the city had considered for the City Hall project.

“It’s just a different mechanism,” Schroeder said. “That’s not with any sort of intent. It’s not intended to avoid anything; it’s just how these things are funded.”

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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