At the Nov. 2 Cottage Grove City Council meeting, evolving plans were discussed for the future of the Washington County Library – Cottage Grove Park Grove Branch, located at 79th Street South and Hemingway Avenue South.
Resident Lisa Hartfiel spoke in the meeting’s open forum, expressing concern about the efficacy of a library remodel versus the other option of removal and rebuilding of the entire facility elsewhere.
Referencing a draft of the Washington County Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), Hartfiel said, “In 2025, they were proposing to do a $50,000 major renovation of Park Grove Library. The city is also talking about having the library torn down and rebuilt somewhere else, so that the Grove80 Apartments can add more apartments there. I have an issue with spending $50,000 to renovate. How much does a new building cost? You’re moving a library that is close to Crestview, which is a Title I school. Those students might be using the library for internet access and printing, and if you’re going to relocate it further away, that’s an issue for me. And adding more apartments, as there are two more apartment buildings somewhat near that area. It’s just a lot of traffic.”
The topic was later addressed in the meeting by council member Justin Olsen.
“It’s important to note that the library has been in its location since we were in the old city hall building. The library was built in 1986. Over the course of time, there have been some different remodels and improvements where we’ve built up, we’ve never been able to build out, because it’s landlocked,” said Olsen. “There have been questions about the location of the library. When we were exploring the idea of a community center at the Shoppes at Cottage View, there was some discussion with the county at that time about looking at bringing the library to that location, and doing so to create some synergy with that project. That piece of property is almost dead smack in the middle of the city of Cottage Grove.”
Olsen noted that State Sen. Karla Bigham was a proponent of keeping the library in its current location, citing school proximity and convenience for students. Bigham has been trying to secure funding to remodel the library, but that didn’t materialize.
“Now we’re in a position where we’ve got a property owner in Grove80 Apartments who has expressed some very serious interest in that site to expand their apartment complex, because it’s been full since before it opened, and there’s a demand for it. From our perspective, that puts that property on the tax rolls, and enables us to enjoy more taxes, which then lowers the taxes for property owners in the area,” added Olsen.
Olsen asked Mayor Bailey for insight into his interaction with Washington County on the topic of the library being in need of either remodeling or rebuilding.
Bailey outlined that he’s spoken about the library with various officials at the county, state, and federal level.
“At the moment, depending on where we finalize that funding source, it’s just under the cutoff. We’ll work on that, depending on where the money comes from for different projects, we’ll see if we can get that hopefully over the line. We’ve had other counties and city advisors that are on the Transportation Advisory Board with me express support for that,” said Bailey.
In regards to budget, Bailey also noted that the $50,000 referenced by the CIP was for planning and design, and not the total budget for a remodel. Bailey added, “The library currently in Cottage Grove is owned by the county. We’ve recommended all along that if the city were to build the community center, that we thought it was best to put the library with the community center. It’s going to be up to the county. It’s been their decision from day one on what they want to do. It was the decision of the county to take the money that was originally earmarked for our library and move it to other libraries in the county, while ours sits in queue.”