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.
The County Board of Commissioners, on Feb. 27 and acting on behalf of the Prairie Lakes Municipal Solid Waste Joint Powers Board, approved the sale of $1.06 million in general obligation waste disposal revenue bonds. This followed a competitive sales process and relates to improvements at the multi-county owned refuse burner in Perham. The low bid of 2.87 percent, covering repayment over 10 years, came from Hutchinson, Shockley, Erley and Company of Chicago. This was coordinated by county bond consultant Nick Anhut of Ehlers and Associates of St. Paul.
County commissioners and county employees, on Feb. 27, met in Fergus Falls with representatives of the Minnesota Department of Human Services staff to discuss psychiatric residential treatment facility services. The main issue was use of the Community Addiction Recovery Enterprise (CARE) building in northwest Fergus Falls. The building is currently not being utilized for chemical dependency treatment services. Clinicare has interest in providing Psychiatric Residential Treatment (PRT) services in the Fergus Falls facility.
Final payment to contractors for the addition of five new holding cells at the county jail, and the addition of a new elevator, has been submitted in the amount of $116,324. County commissioners were told that the overall project came in under budget. The final figure is $1.16 million, well below the original budget of $1.30 million. "We only had two change orders," said Terry Hoff, Otter Tail County's physical plant manager. Commissioners praised Hoff and county employees along with the architect, project manager and contractors for a job well done.