APPLAUSE to the 120 firefighters and numerous other volunteers who worked outside all night in subzero temperatures to put out the largest fire the Perham area has seen in at least 50 years, and maybe ever. It was impressive and reassuring to see the amount of support the community had during the Jan. 21 firefight: a record number of 20 fire departments assisted at the scene, and dozens of other local individuals, groups and businesses pitched in to help in any way they could. Partly due to this immediate and adequate response, and partly due to luck, the fire was contained to one building, and no one was injured. City leaders have said the effort went as well as could possibly be hoped for. It was a stellar example of a successful cooperative emergency response.
A PAUSE to high propane prices and shortages in Minnesota and other states in the Upper Midwest. The Propane Education and Research Council reported last week that the country has an ample supply of propane; it’s just not where it needs to be, leaving Midwestern families wondering if they’ll be able to keep their homes heated through this brutally cold winter. An estimated 250,000 homes in Minnesota rely on propane for heating, and prices in most parts of the state have doubled and even tripled since this same time last year. At press time, media outlets were reporting that several pipelines had agreed to start moving more propane to ease the shortage, but it was unclear when costs would come down as a result. The state’s low income heating assistance program was upping crisis payments from $500 to $1,000 to help people fill their tanks with propane or heating oil, but that won’t help people who don’t qualify. A lot of people are struggling to pay their bills – and crossing their fingers that they can keep warm this winter.
APPLAUSE to the Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners for being open to the possibility of county-wide public transit. Commissioners recently agreed to designate a special committee to explore the options. In a county this large and rural, they’re sure to run into challenges, not the least of which will be financial. Still, if public transportation helps bring new people into the area to fill open jobs in Perham and other parts of the county, as some suspect it would, the economic return could end up far exceeding the investment. There’s no telling how this process will play out, or whether anything will actually be made of the idea, but we’re glad the county is willing to at least take a serious look at it.