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New EcoCenter in the works near Battle Lake

An EcoCenter for outdoor learning, research and creative activities—from biology to creative writing—will likely be built in Eagle Lake Township, south of Battle Lake.

The center would be a cooperative effort with the University of Minnesota in Morris.

The property, as recently described to Otter Tail County Commissioners by township resident Les Bensch, will include rivers, lakes, prairie grasses, farmland, hunting land and wetlands. University officials have submitted a preliminary plan for a facility, but Bensch and others feel there is much work to be done before the plan is finalized.

"We have concerns for the cost, location and effects on a nearby wetland," said Bensch, who, with his wife, Bette, operates the nearby Viking Valley Hunt Club.

Bensch plans to serve the new EcoCenter as a senior fellow sustainability teaching specialist.

State Rep. Bud Nornes of Fergus Falls, also speaking to county commissioners, agreed with Bensch about the need for a less costly option, relying on private donations instead of state dollars.

"A new plan would also include a more environmentally friendly manner in Eagle Lake Township," said Nornes.

The project would require environmental review by the county board prior to construction.

County board salary increase approved

The annual salary for Otter Tail County Commissioners will be raised to $38,105 effective Jan. 1, 2018. This reflects a 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment similar to increases received by other county employee groups.

The current annual salary for Otter Tail County commissioners is $37,003.

Minnesota statutes provide that county commissioners receive per diem payments and reimbursement for necessary expenses incurred in performance of the duties of office.

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