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Cottage Grove, MN City Hall, Built Under “Best Value Model,” Comes in $2 Million Under Budget

CORRECTION: A previous version of this post suggested a Project Labor Agreement was used when in fact the “Best Value Model” approach was taken.

In Cottage Grove, Minnesota, the city’s Public Safety Building was outgrown by the city’s population. The town’s two jail cells, housed therein and built in 1968, no longer met State of Minnesota Department of Corrections codes and had been grandfathered and re-grandfathered in for years. A new building had been discussed for quite some time but politicians and taxpayers were cautious due to fears that the project would be too expensive.

Alas, fears were assuaged and union tradesmen got to work on what is now a state of the art Public Safety/City Hall Building built using the “Best Value Model.” The project came in nearly $2 million under budget and the new design has helped improve work flow in the once outdated space. Cottage Grove Director of Public Safety Craig Woolery told the Star Tribune,

“It’s changed a lot about just how they feel about their workplace,” said Woolery, adding that every member of his department had a hand in contributing design ideas. “We had been talking about this for a long time, in 2001 and again in 2005 — it was like a roller coaster. We started planning it, and it didn’t work out. We started planning again, and it didn’t work out.

“This time, we had a strong mayor and [City] Council. They took a lot of heat for it at times.”

A time-lapse video of the construction process (sorry, can’t embed it), is viewable here.

In 2010, Woolery gave a video tour of the former facility to expose the need for upgrades. Overcrowding created a scenario in which victims and criminals would rub elbows as they awaited processing.

This problem has been solved by designing a new lobby which better serves the police force’s needs.

Like nearly everything at the old building’s basement Public Safety headquarters, the lobby was a cramped space, barely 10 square feet. On a frenzied Saturday night, a suspect being booked might be handcuffed to a small bench for want of space, even as a crime victim was trying to fill out a report on a clipboard, or an officer might be nearby trying to sort out details of a car accident.

The new building has its own after-hours lobby off the main entrance. It is a spacious area with comfortable chairs, toys to occupy children and a table on which to write. Off the lobby are two interview rooms, where police can take information in private, and crime victims don’t have to mingle with suspects. One room has a sofa and soft chairs, Koerner said, offering a more comfortable atmosphere for children or when a chaplain needs to be with families.

The project was controversial due to its perceived price tag, but the end, under budgets result has laid that controversy to rest. In the end, the success of the building feels more like a new start for a city than merely a bolstered workplace for its dedicated 9-to-5ers. Capt. Pete Koerner told the Star-Tribune,

“Officers from other cities used to come here and they’d say ‘How do you work here?’” Koerner said.

“Now they come here to see how we’ve done things, and they’re saying ‘You really did this right.’”


2 Comments on “Cottage Grove, MN City Hall, Built Under “Best Value Model,” Comes in $2 Million Under Budget”

  1. Are you sure there was a PLA on this project? We were under the understanding that there was’nt.

    1. You are correct, Mark. I went back to the source of the article for clarification and have amended.

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