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APPLAUSE to the Perham City Council for going ahead with a study on quiet zones at railroad crossings.

There's about an $8,000 cost involved in looking into the possibility, but we feel the money's well worth it.

If it turns out the quiet zones would be affordable to implement (or at least not over-the-top expensive) and wouldn't hinder safety at the crossings, we hope the city will continue to move forward with a plan.

Reduced noise levels through the city would be of benefit to all - residents, businesses and the tourism sector, especially.

APPLAUSE to Otter Tail County's recently ramped-up efforts to raise awareness of aquatic invasive species.

A relatively new county task force and informational billboards along major roadways, as well as admirable efforts led by area lake associations and the Minnesota DNR, are designed to help slow the spread of invasives.

These non-native species, such as zebra mussels, have a negative impact on native species, water quality, recreational opportunities and, potentially, the tourism industry.

A PAUSE to low turnout at the August primary election.

While none of the primary races in our area were considered especially "hot" this election year, the 3.96 percent turnout in Perham was dismally low - less than half the statewide average of 9 percent, which was the second-worst turnout in recorded history.

We pause not just for the apparent political apathy of the public, but also to the parties, candidates, and media, which should have done a better job of spreading information to the people before the polls opened.

APPLAUSE to a great reason to watch cars crash into each other - Derby for a Cure. Now in its second year in the Ottertail area, this 'smashing good' event raises funds for local cancer patients and their families. It's also a lot of fun. Along this same line, APPLAUSE to everyone involved in the Dreams for Kids Ride. This year's ride raised two times as much as anticipated, helping to grant the wishes of four area children.

APPLAUSE to Perham and New York Mills schools for performing well on standardized tests and meeting Adequate Yearly Progress in 2012. As a story on today's front page shows, schools in both districts are showing significant growth in various areas.

The elementary school in Perham, and both schools in NY Mills, earned the state's highest label this year - the Reward label - under the Minnesota Department of Education's new measurement system, signifying them as 'leader' schools in the top 15 percent of all schools in the state. While test scores certainly aren't everything, performances like these are still worth celebrating.