County Ditch Inspector Kevin Fellbaum reported on, during a continued public hearing, the redetermination of benefits for Ditch 55 in Star Lake Township. The benefits of Ditch 55 were reduced from $494,569 to $448,190. This is part of a county ditch viewers report. Once the benefited property owners are determined, all costs incurred by the ditch system (for repairs, maintenance and inspections) are assessed back to the benefited property owners.
A teenage passenger on an ATV was injured at 6:30 p.m. on April 25 on 500th Street northeast of New York Mills, in the extreme northeastern section of Otter Tail County. Another teenager, age 16, was driving the ATV but was not injured. The injured passenger was transported by ambulance to a hospital in Park Rapids. The injures were believed to be non-life threatening. "The operator of the ATV lost control and both the driver and passenger were thrown from the ATV," said County Sheriff Administrative Lt. Keith VanDyke. "The teenagers were not wearing helmets."
Chuck Grotte is the new county highway engineer for Otter Tail County. He replaces Rick West who has assumed a new position as county public works director. Grotte, who was an assistant for West, heads operations of the county highway department. Otter Tail County is larger in size than the state of Rhode Island and paved roads total 1,062 miles. The 2018 roadway budget is $37.6 million. Toward this end, $18 million comes from the state of Minnesota through grants and $1.3 million from the federal government through grants.
County Commissioner Doug Huebsch of Perham reported that new equipment has been installed at the Perham Resource Recovery Facility and is working very well with disposing of more garbage and increasing steam sales. He said further testing will be performed the end of May. Discussion took place among county board members regarding options for recycling of demolition materials. County Administrator John Dinsmore will facilitate a meeting with the Otter Tail County Public Works Committee and refuse burner officials.
County board members met with CCG Consulting, Finley Engineering and local vendors to discuss a broadband feasibility study. CCG President Doug Dawson and Finley Project Engineer Chris Konechne reported that, within the next four to five years, local vendors will have provided about 75 percent of Otter Tail County land mass with fiber to the curb.
Reaching for a cell phone was a bad decision which almost resulted in loss of life for a driver south of Deer Creek in Inman Township on April 15. County sheriff deputies said that Jonathan Beau Haase, 34, of Williston, North Dakota, was southbound on Highway 29 when he reached for a cell phone on the floor of his vehicle at 2:46 p.m. His vehicle crossed over the northbound lane, entered the east ditch and hit an approach which caused the vehicle, a 2000 Nissan Frontier, to launch into the air.
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.