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Elaine Hanson hired as Ottertail clerk

Elaine Hanson, of Vining, has accepted the city of Ottertail's offer to become the new Ottertail city clerk/treasurer. Hanson will begin working for the city on Monday, November 16.

After announcing the hiring of Hanson at a Nov. 5 council meeting, current city deputy clerk Shari Wheeler asked that the council consider bringing the recently retired clerk, Linda Bjelland, back to help with tying up some loose ends.

Wheeler reported that some of the more time-intensive projects, such as the city's levy, budget, and CTAS entry, need attention. However, the Public Employees' Retirement Association (PERA) mandates a 30 day complete separation for retirees.

It was Wheeler's request that after the 30 days are up, Bjelland be brought back temporarily to help bring Hanson "up to speed" as to how things were left and how to proceed in order to get the levy and budget ready for the Dec. 3 council meeting.

The Ottertail City Council approved Wheeler's request to contact former clerk Linda Bjelland and see if she is willing to help out for a short period of time. After the transition, Hanson and Wheeler will handle all of the city office duties.

Smokin' Iron update

Wheeler also updated the council on the city's findings regarding providing financial assistance for the annual Smokin' Iron Truck and Tractor Pull event held in Ottertail on property owned by the city. Wheeler said she called the city auditor who informed her that the city can't support Smokin' Iron, even through some of the more creative means suggested.

The following three standards for valid public expenditures must all be met:

1) The activity will benefit the community as a body.

2) The activity is directly related to functions of government.

3) The activity does not have as its primary objective the benefit of a private interest.

With the Ottertail Business Persons Association running the annual event, Smokin' Iron is not considered a city festival--which would be eligible for city support. After reviewing the criteria, councilmember Terry Wagenman asked the council if, in the future, the city would be willing to maintain the grounds Smokin' Iron is held on. Wagenman spearheads the Smokin' Iron event.

The council expressed their support of this idea, asking Wagenman to just keep doing what they're doing and then the city could reimburse them for grounds care. This type of arrangement is similar to how the city is currently handling the maintenance of other city park areas.

Councilmember Heather Pollard noted that the city shouldn't have any problem covering maintenance expenses, unless there is some big project they're planning to do on the grounds.