County commissioners, at their April 10 meeting, voted to have an engineering consulting firm study options for a possible fish passage at Phelps Mill. "We're a long way from making any decision, and any plan will include input from the residents of Otter Tail County," said County Public Works Director Rick West. West said a fish passage, if it were constructed at Phelps Mill, would involve a series of fish ladders, or fishways. An abutment would be modified to allow fish to pass over it.
A Pelican Rapids man, Brian Torres, 23, was sentenced to 90 days in the county jail on March 28 for a felony conviction of theft and transfer of property. However, a 21-month sentence at the state correctional facility in St. Cloud was stayed for 20 years, dependent on good behavior. The crime dates back to May 1, 2016. Torres pled guilty on Jan. 5, 2018. A mental health evaluation also was ordered by the judge on March 28. Torres will be under supervision of a probation officer and was ordered to comply with periodic searches of his residence, vehicle and workplace.
Sheriff deputies, on April 11, reported that a house east of Erhard on Highway 24 had extensive damage following a fire. A heat lamp for chickens was the likely cause of the fire. Several baby chicks perished as a result of the fire. Safety experts note that some chickens may try to perch on a suspended heat lamp and knock it down into combustible bedding material such as sawdust or straw. They encourage owners to make sure that heat lamps are installed in locations where they are far enough away from any combustibles to preclude ignition.
Judges in Otter Tail County court, in late March, issued Stays of Imposition for three county residents who had been found guilty of felonies. Under the Stays of Imposition, each person will have his or her felony conviction reduced to a misdemeanor if the person stays law abiding during a five-year probationary period. The three individuals are from Perham, Parkers Prairie and Pelican Rapids. Ashley Ann Collins, 25, of Perham, had been found guilty to fifth degree felony drug possession. Her crime dates back to May 22, 2017.
Sheriff deputies reported a break-in and thefts near Highway 18, northeast of Fergus Falls, on April 2. Homeowners reported the break-in at 6:26 p.m. Taken were a strong box from a bedroom, cash, collector coins, personal documents and other items. The investigation was continuing as of April 3. Shots fired at abandoned building in town of Vergas The sheriff office was contacted on April 2 concerning shots fired at an abandoned building in Vergas.
County Economic Development Director Nick Leonard briefed the County Board of Commissioners about opportunity zones, a new community development program established by Congress in the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017. Commissioners voted to designate two opportunity zones in Otter Tail County, one in Pelican Rapids and one in Parkers Prairie. The intent of the program is to encourage long-term investments in low-income and urban communities nationwide. Each governor can designate 25 percent of the eligible census tracts as opportunity zones in his or her state.
County Land and Resources Director Bill Kalar told county commissioners on March 27 that 24 watercraft inspectors have been hired to work at county lake accesses during the summer of 2018. "Nine of these hires are returning from summer 2017, and 15 people will be new as watercraft inspectors," Kalar said. The 24 summer workers will work directly with Spencer McGrew, Otter Tail County's Aquatic Invasive Species task force specialist.
Sheriff deputies reported two fires in late March in Otter Tail County. During one fire, reported at 10:12 p.m. on March 29, one-quarter of a greenhouse was destroyed near the southwest side of Rush Lake, north of the town of Ottertail. Authorities said the cause of the fire at the greenhouse was determined to be a malfunction at a wood stove. Firefighters from Ottertail responded to the scene of the fire. A second fire, which led to destruction of a barn, was reported at 6:17 a.m. on March 31, near Highway 56, east of New York Mills.
Shareholders of Otter Tail Corporation were informed March 19 that customers of Otter Tail Power Company, including those in Otter Tail County, will likely see savings when they receive future bill statements. Those savings will likely reflect the federal tax cuts enacted earlier this year for both corporations and individuals. Comments came during a meeting of Minnesota Utility Investors (MUI) held at the American Legion in Fergus Falls.
Some of the money stolen by scammers from an 85-year-old female resident of Otter Tail County has been recovered. After an investigation took place, $29,000 was recovered. How much money was not recovered was not immediately available. On March 5 the victim received phone calls informing her that she would receive a Mercedes Benz if she sent money to the caller. "The victim sent packages containing cash to several locations in the United States,"said County Sheriff Administrative Lt. Keith Van Dyke.