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Cottage Grove voters turn away park referendums

Cottage Grove voters roundly rejected a pair of ballot questions Tuesday that proposed to borrow millions of dollars to pay for wide-ranging improvements to the city's park system.

A referendum seeking authorization to bond for up to $6.5 million to build a family aquatic facility failed by more than 5,000 votes, with 12,128 voters, or 63.6 percent, saying no and just 6,954 voters, 36.4 percent, voting to approve the request.

A second question that sought bonding authorization for up to $7 million that would have renovated an empty building at the city's disused pool into an indoor/outdoor play facility and added new baseball/softball fields and completed other improvements at Hamlet Park didn't fare much better -- 11,596 voters, or 61.5 percent, rejected the proposal; 7,246 voters, or 38.5 percent, supported it.

A sticking point for voters may have been tax dollars. Approval of either one or both of the ballot questions would have meant an increase in property taxes to pay off the bonds used to finance constructions costs. Fees and general fund dollars would have covered operational costs, city officials said.

"I think voters told us [that] now is not the right time," said Mayor Myron Bailey, who won re-election Tuesday.