Cottage Grove Council meeting sees presentations, delayed audio

Posted 4/28/21

The Cottage Grove City Council met April 21 covering several items, including but not limited to…A SPRING CLEANUP! As a reminder to readers from last week, there will be a Spring cleanup in Cottage …

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Cottage Grove Council meeting sees presentations, delayed audio


The Cottage Grove City Council met April 21 covering several items, including but not limited to…A SPRING CLEANUP!

As a reminder to readers from last week, there will be a Spring cleanup in Cottage Grove May 1, carried out by Public Works and lasting from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. down at the Cottage Grove Public Works Garage, located at 8635 West Point Douglas Road South, across Highway 61 from Target. Items accepted in the Spring cleanup include, but are not limited to, Hot Water Heaters, Washers and Dryers, Stoves, Refrigerators (no gas ammonia), Sofas, Chairs, and all sizes of box spring mattresses, with face coverings required and residents asked to stay in their vehicles. Hazardous materials will not be accepted, with residents who wish to dispose of these directed instead to the Washington County Environmental Center at 4039 Cottage Grove Drive in Woodbury. Those with further questions on the Cleanup protocol may contact Public Works at 651-458-2808 or go to the city website at

As to the April 19 meeting itself there were four presentations, one on autism awareness, another on water conservation in the city, a third on Arbor Day, and finally the Spring Cleanup reminder. The meeting of just under an hour and a half once the pre-meeting runup was cut, began in silence.

‘Due to technical difficulties, audio begins at 10:08,’ a notice below, the announcement on the live-streamed web version of the meeting announced. With Council members LaRae Mills, Steve Dennis, Dave Thiede and Justin Olsen answering to roll along with Mayor Myron Bailey.

Beginning to speak at just over nine minutes in, Mayor Bailey reads a statement at the Council Chambers.

“And we hope these measures will accommodate everyone who wishes to participate in our open and public meetings,” Mayor Bailey is heard saying just as the April 19 audio goes live, which leads poor lip readers to a question: just what was said up to this point?

For this we turn to the prior meeting of April 21, 2021, when Mayor Bailey was on site.

“Before we move to the Pledge of Allegiance and the rest of the meeting, I do have a statement to read,” Bailey said April 7. “So again, tonight, the Council meeting is in person,” he said. “The Council chamber is set up to ensure adequate social distancing. Because of the reduced capacity of our Council chambers and recognizing that some will prefer to attend remotely, we continue to provide for public input via ZOOM. Please visit our website at cottagegrovemn. gov, hover over the ‘Your Government’ drop down menu, then click on public meetings, where you will find instructions for additional viewing and participation options for tonight’s meeting. We want to be open, transparent, accessible and inclusive, and we hope these measures will accommodate everyone who wishes to participate in our open and public meetings,” Bailey closed out at the start of the April 7 meeting.

Returning to April 19 after the Pledge of Allegiance and Roll Call, it was into Open Forum, aka ‘Have Your Say’ in other words. With nobody responding to invitation by Mayor Bailey, it was out of Open Forum and into four presentations, the first one on autism. Presented by Council member Olsen, the presentation on Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month included a proclamation, with Olsen thanking city staff for their work on the issue.

“I want to thank the staff for working very closely with our partners at the State of Minnesota’s Autism Society,” Olsen said, saying that Cottage Grove had now been designated an Autism Acceptance Community Partner with the State of Minnesota.

Sharing that his eldest son was on the autism spectrum, Olsen then read the proclamation, beginning with a definition of the disorder, the full text of which is in a related story for this week’s Journal.

Having read the proclamation, Olsen was then thanked in turn by Mayor Bailey for his focus on autism awareness and for bringing the matter to Council attention, the floor then being ceded to Project Engineer Joe Fox, who updated the Council on the City’s Water Conservation Program. Fox began by designating five parts to the City’s Water Conservation Program as approved on March 17, or St. Patrick’s Day.

“The main reason the City’s Water Conservation Programs exist is that the City’s water system is designed for the peak day,” Fox said, explaining that this was the day that City residents used “the largest volume of water,” which usually comes in summer, he said.

“Conserving water helps keep this peak day as low as possible,” he went on, “so that the City can spend less money on water infrastructure.”

As such, the first program relating to water conservation efforts that Fox covered was the Smart Irrigation Controllers, in use since 2017. Buying the controllers below retail for $160, then re-selling them to citizens for $35 for use on lawns. The internet-linked devices are run by an app from one’s smartphone.

“These controllers are really interesting,” he said, saying that they monitored rainfall by going to various websites, allowing residents to save money by using less lawn irrigation water. Paid for by a grant from the South Washington Water district, the smart irrigation controllers are available from the City for just $35, as Fox restated.

“And again they’re $35,” he said of the water conservation devices available from the city.

Also a program tied to the City’s water conservation efforts are irrigation-system audits, done since 2019. Several hundred local citizens had taken advantage of the water checks, with fewer doing so during COVID due to difficulties of the pandemic.

“It’s very hard to do these water audits with COVID,” he said, with mushrooms given as an example that someone’s lawn is getting too much water.

The third program tied to the City’s Water Conservation Program as shared by Fox on April 21 was the opportunity of reimbursement for irrigation upgrades in HOAs in the City, with 50 percent reimbursement or up to $7,500 to City residents to take advantage of. Given as one example was a picture of lawn, sidewalk, and driveway being watered together.

“Clearly if you just readjusted that and put the right equipment in there you could quit watering those hard surfaces and just focus on the grass,” Fox said, saying this was a common problem identified in audits.

The fourth program related to the City’s overall Water Conservation Program that Fox spoke about was Water Efficiency Rebates targeted at using less water for washers and toilets.

“The next program we have doesn’t have to do with lawns,” he said. “It has to do with toilets and washing machines.” Fox then added that the money for the program came from the Metropolitan Council through money it had received from the Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment. Purchasing and using toilets that use a low volume of water to flush as indicated by a “Water Sense” can save Cottage Grove residents up to $80 once the rebate is processed. As to washing machines, the label to look for on your next washing machine purchase is that of “Energy Star,” worth a $200 rebate from the City to use.

“So far we’ve given out 130 rebates totaling $23,000 in the last few months and we have $13,000 left,” Fox said of program rebate funds, with 75 percent of this paid for by the Metropolitan Council grant and the other 25 percent paid for by the City. The last water conservation program piece related to something called the Mayor’s Challenge, sponsored by the Wyland Foundation.

“The way it works is that residents go to and they make a pledge to get smart irrigation or fixing a leaky faucet,” he said, saying that the nationwide program pitted cities against each other in competition for residents pledging to save water.

“There’s no cost to residents, there’s no cost to the city,” Fox said. “It’s just a challenge for people to make these pledges and follow through with them.”

With cities and individuals able to win prizes along with their pledging, the community grand prize is a 2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid truck, while the individual grand prize is free utilities paid for a year. Checking current rankings as of Sunday, Cottage Grove Minnesota ranked 95 in the 30,000 to 99,999 population category of the friendly competition, with the winner determined based on the percentage of city residents who signed up. Residents can go to the Cottage Grove city website for a smart irrigation controller application or contact Mr. Fox of interested.

Shifting to the third presentation, City Clerk Joe Fischbauch gave details some on a buckthorn pickup wherein residents had to call Public Works before April 23 and Public Works would haul it away April 28 and 29. Also included with this was a tree giveaway by the City, the winners for the now-past event to have their trees delivered on April 30. Varieties in the 140-tree giveaway included Mountain Ash, Japanese Tree Lilac, and Prairefire Crab. Council member Mills then read an Arbor Day proclamation, as follows: WHEREAS, climate change is a complex problem that impacts all Minnesotans and our ability to thrive; and WHEREAS, the health and longevity of Minnesota’s trees are being affected by changing temperatures and precipitation, more extreme weather events, and increasing pressure from pests, diseases, and invasive species; and WHEREAS, Minnesota is at risk to lost over one billion ash trees due to emerald ash borer, which would impact carbon storage, habitat, water movement and water quality; and WHEREAS, Trees capture carbon from the atmosphere and store it in their trunks, roots and the surrounding soil thereby offsetting greenhouse gas emissions; and WHEREAS, a healthy tree canopy decreases temperatures along streets providing cooler spaces in the summertime; and WHEREAS, Trees reduce stormwater runoff and act as a filter, preventing sediments and pollutants from washing into waterways; and WHEREAS, Minnesotans can help build resilient communities and reduce the negative impacts of climate change by planting and caring for trees one tree at a time; and WHEREAS, The City of Cottage Grove will host a ceremonial tree planting and volunteer planting event at Hemingway Park on Wednesday, April 28th, 2021 and tree giveaways to residents on Friday, April 30th, 2021, NOW, THEREFORE, the Mayor and City Council of the City of Cottage Grove, County of Washington, State of Minnesota, hereby proclaim April 30th, 2021 as Arbor Day in the City of Cottage Grove,” Council member Mills closed out. Mayor Bailey thanked Mills for reading, then asked for a motion to make both proclamations official. Council member Mills made the motion for both, seconded by Council member Olsen. The proclamations then passed unanimously on a vote by the Council.

The fourth and final presentation at the April 21 Council meeting had to do with the spring Clean Up May 1, given by Public Works Director Ryan Burfeind—but you’ve already read the details of it, at the start of this article.