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Veterans' memorial possible for Ottertail

A question was raised at a recent Ottertail City Council meeting about whether the citizens of Ottertail would be interested in creating a war memorial to honor the veterans who have served our country.

John McGraham brought up the suggestion of the memorial at the Feb. 17 Ottertail City Council meeting. He said he doesn't have any specific plans for the memorial so far, but is simply trying to gauge community interest in this type of a project. McGraham requested that the city council members talk to friends and neighbors to see who would be in favor of this type of a project.

The idea is also being presented to the local Lions Club and the Ottertail Rod and Gun Club. The first possible location McGraham mentioned for the memorial was at the corner of Highway 108 and Highway 78 in front of First National Bank. The second location he brought up was where the city's otter statue is currently located. In the future, the city has plans to move the statue to its permanent site.

Regarding the design of the veterans' memorial, McGraham said, "If we do move forward with this, I'd like input from the community to see what they'd like to see."

McGraham mentioned a desire to keep the memorial more general in nature and not have individual names on the memorial.

At this time, funding is not being sought for the project. McGraham said he will attend an upcoming council meeting and see what the council has decided and heard about project from the people they asked.

Meter equipment fails in cold weather

After trekking through the city in frigid temperatures last month, Ottertail Maintenance Supervisor Lee Sherman discovered that the meter reading equipment failed and the readings were missing. Sherman, who has worked with the equipment for years, said there were no signs of problems while he was out reading the meters, and the issue wasn't discovered until he was back in the office.

As a result of the equipment malfunction, the city was forced to send out estimated water bills last month. The city estimated low, which will result in the next round of bills being higher than normal.

Sherman told the council he believes it was the cold weather that caused the problem.

"I don't have a lot of faith in the equipment, so I think a lot of things could go wrong," he said.

The possibility of the city investing in some new meter reading technology was then discussed.

This technology would allow the meters to be read from a truck. The meters the city has now are the proper meters, but a new box would need to be added onto each one. The box reader unit and software are estimated to cost $10,000. It would take approximately $40,000 to outfit the entire city with the system and install new boxes on every meter. It costs about $100 per box to add a box onto the existing readers at residences and businesses.

By spending $10,000 and getting the new software and reader the city could continue on as now. However, with each new box that's added, the city is able to save time reading that specific meter. Training would also be available so city staff members are educated about the new technology.

"I think it's a good chance for us to take advantage of technology," said Ottertail Mayor Myron Lueders.

Lueders said Sherman's knowledge and skills can be directed to other city needs with the time saved by the new technology.

The city didn't budget for this equipment upgrade, so questions were raised as to how the city should fund this project and how much should be done at this time. Sherman said one option would be to set up the city in four different cycles to help spread out the costs.

Councilmember Mike Windey requested that Ottertail City Clerk-Treasurer Elaine Hanson come up with a profit and loss projection so the council can view it in-depth on paper. This will help the council determine the amount of funds available in the water budget and see what the most cost-effective approach to this project will be. Hanson will send out the projection to the council members via e-mail.

Emergency Planning Committee holds first meeting

The newly formed Emergency Planning Committee met for the first time on Feb. 7 at City Hall. Those present included Mike Windey, council; Heather Rosenthal, council; Adam Wedde, fire chief; Elaine Hanson, clerk-treasurer and Lee Sherman, maintenance supervisor.

The committee reviewed the city's emergency operations plan and agreed that a warning siren for the city would be money well spent. The committee concluded that the city should start out with one siren, placed at the Ottertail Fire Hall to cover the most residential area.

Hanson said she will check into the possibility of receiving some community grants for this type of expenditure. The full council will now need to decide when to move ahead with purchasing a siren system for the city.