Rick West will remain as the county public works director resulting in hiring a county engineer. The latter duties also had been held by West. "Mr. West has been busy with more and more issues relating to public works such as Phelps Mill restoration, the Pelican Rapids to Perham trail, McDonald Lake outlet, broadband, strategic planning and other issues," noted County Board Chairman Wayne Johnson of Pelican Rapids.
Otter Tail County Sheriff Brian Schlueter has informed the county board of commissioners that he plans to retire the end of this year, on Dec. 31, 2018. His career, in addition to Sheriff Department duties based in Fergus Falls, has included law enforcement work in East Lansing, Michigan, Burnsville south of the Twin Cities and in Belleview, Wash. Schlueter praised sheriff deputies and staff under his supervision who he says do an outstanding job in serving the residents of Otter Tail County.
Sheriff deputies heard from a Clitherall resident on March 13 who reported that someone used his Social Security number to obtain two cell phones that were charged to the account of the Clitherall resident. The total bill was $500 but Verizon said the Clitherall resident will not be responsible for the charges and will not be out any money. An investigation is continuing. Another scam averted A Dent resident told sheriff deputies on March 13 that he received a phone call from a person who said he was with the IRS.
County Engineer Rick West reviewed with county board members on March 13 a proposed fish passage project at Phelps Mill in central Otter Tail County. At the same time, West updated the five-person county board about plans for Phelps Mill structural and dam improvements Funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is available for dirt-moving activities that will directly provide for the fish passage.
Cyndi Abbott, License Center manager for Otter Tail County, told county commissioners on March 13 that she and her employees are doing their best to serve county residents. Their jobs are not easy these days. That's because county employees who assist vehicle owners have no control over the new Minnesota Licensing and Registration System (MNLARS). MNLARS debuted in July 2017. But since then, people in Otter Tail County and across the state have waited months to receive vehicle titles or weeks to receive new tabs.
A judge in Otter Tail County ordered Stays of Impositions on Feb. 26 for two Henning residents who had been charged with felonies. Under a Stay of Imposition, a person will have his or her felony conviction reduced to a misdemeanor if the person stays law abiding during a probationary period. Jennifer Lee Austin, 33, was convicted in court on a felony charge of fifth degree drug possession. That conviction will be reduced to a misdemeanor if she successfully completes five years of probation. The case dates back to Dec. 30, 2016. She pled guilty on Nov. 30, 2017.
County Land and Resource Director Bill Kalar discussed the current ice damage policy with county board members on March 6. Commissioners requested that RtVision develop a form for property owners to request ice damage repair along their shoreline that has occurred over the past winter. The application would be completed online and would be logged with the parcel the same way sewer permits follow the parcel. Development of the form/application was discussed. This information was scheduled to be shared during the annual contractor's meeting scheduled for March 14.
In a recent year, only 31 people were disqualified from receiving public assistance in Otter Tail County. Nonetheless, county employees work in conjunction with state government to prevent and reduce public assistance fraud and use various collection methods to recover money from recipients who are determined to be ineligible for benefits. Fraud and collection reports were submitted March 6 to county commissioners. Total recoveries for 2017 totaled $611,725 with Otter Tail County retaining $192,183.
Sheriff deputies said a Perham resident, on March 6, reported that several credit cards were opened by a thief in the name of the county resident. In cases such as this, law enforcement informs victims to contact the individual credit card fraud department to have the account closed. "You need to take action to be sure you are not held liable," said a state law enforcement official.
A vehicle crash near Pelican Rapids, at the intersection of 190th Avenue and 410th Street near the south side of town, resulted in minor injuries to three juveniles. There were four juveniles in the car which included a juvenile driver. The single-vehicle accident took place at 4:13 p.m. on Sunday, March 4. County Sheriff Administrative Lt. Keith Van Dyke said on Monday that muddy and slushy conditions contributed to the accident.