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Home rehab funds a possibility for Ottertail residents

Ottertail residents may soon be able to apply for home improvement funds to assist in making needed repairs to their homes.

The funds would be available through a Small Cities Development Program for homeowners.

“I got a call from the Fergus Falls and Otter Tail County HRA [Housing and Redevelopment Authority]. They want to do a study and see if there’s any interest for housing and commercial rehab in Ottertail,” Ottertail City Clerk/Treasurer Elaine Hanson explained at the June 20 meeting of the Ottertail City Council. “If people qualify, it would be either a loan or a grant.”

Funds could be used for furnaces, wiring, plumbing, roofing, windows, doors, siding, and other improvement projects. Homes must have improvement needs beyond basic maintenance items.

Funds could not be used for “remodeling” or on new construction. Competitive bidding is required on all rehab projects and homeowners must provide proof of funding for their share before rehab work may begin.

The Small Cities Development Program would provide the qualified homeowner a deferred loan (no payment or interest) for home improvement needs up to a maximum of $20,000.

A lien would be placed on the property for the period of the deferred loan. If the property is sold, transferred, or otherwise conveyed within 10 years, all or a portion of the principal amount of the loan would be required to be repaid to the city of Ottertail.

After 10 years, no repayment is due and the deferred loan is forgiven.

Surveys will be sent out to Ottertail residents to determine a target area within the city where the interest in this type of a program is the greatest. A separate survey will be sent out to commercial property owners. The survey results will then be reported back to the city to see if they want to pursue this grant.

Councilmember Darold Woessner voiced his support for the program, saying, “I think it’s a good program to bring into the city.”

Nuisance violation letters sent out

Nuisance violation letters will be sent out to individuals who did not clean up their properties after Ottertail’s recent Clean-up Days.

Hanson said she has 12 letters to send out.

“For the most part, a lot of the property owners who we had complaints about cleaned up their properties,” she reported.

West Central Update and Bike Rack

Tom McSparron gave the council a brief update on activities with West Central Initiative. He talked about some of the organization’s efforts in the nine-county region of West Central Minnesota. He asked the council to consider partnering with WCI and offering some financial support.

As part of WCI’s work with a Community Transformation Grant, it is, in collaboration with PartnerSHIP 4 Health, providing free bike racks to communities in Becker, Clay, Otter Tail, and Wilkin Counties.

The Ottertail City Council approved a motion to apply for one of the free bike racks.

Each community will be given a minimum of one bike rack to be placed at the location of its choosing, including private property. The city itself must be the recipient of the bike rack. Cities were given a choice of three styles and various color options. Requests for additional bike racks will be fulfilled as fund availability permits.

 2012 Audit Reviewed

Brian Koehn, CPA, updated the council on the city’s 2012 audit.

“Elaine [Hanson] and I are still putting the final touches on the audit,” he explained, adding that the final audit will be submitted before this year’s deadline.

Water sales remain fairly consistent and water operating expenses remained relatively stable as well. He said there is a nice increase happening with the city’s water funds.

Other business

-The city acknowledged a donation of $2,500 from T.I.P. Inc., Ottertail Chapter, for portable bathrooms at Smokin’ Iron.

-JH Signs gave the city a quote of $1,007 to replace the sign in front of City Hall with Ottertail’s new logo. The new sign will also include office hours.

-As a reminder, the ribbon cutting event for Ottertail’s bike path is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 29 at the otter statue. Ottertail Mayor Myron Lueders will give a brief speech at the ribbon cutting before attendees are sent off down the path.

Heidi Kratzke, For the Focus