Most county residents know that construction of a recreational trail from Pelican Rapids to Perham will be completed in phases over several years, as funds become available. The latest action plan was outlined June 27 to county commissioners by County Public Works Director Rick West. This plan calls for the trail section from Pelican Rapids, on the west side, to include detailed planning and preliminary engineering in 2017 and 2018. "The focus of this work will concentrate on the portion of trail from Pelican Rapids to Maplewood State Park," said West.
Employees of Otter Tail County have been recognized by the Minnesota Safety Council. The county received the Minnesota Governor's Safety Award for Meritorious Achievement. The award was displayed June 27 by Patrick Waletzko, Otter Tail County Safety and Emergency Services Director, during the regular meeting of the county board of commissioners at the County Government Services Center in Fergus Falls.
County residents have asked county commissioners about Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service managed lands. The county conservation committee received clarification through committee members and County Commissioners Wayne Johnson of Pelican Rapids and John Lindquist of Dalton. One question of county residents: Why does the Minnesota DNR and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service remove trees from waterfowl production areas and wildlife management areas?
Watercraft inspectors are hired annually by the Otter Tail County Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Task Force. They work closely with County AIS Task Force Specialist Spencer McGrew. There are 134 public accesses in Otter Tail County. It's at some of those locations where boat inspections take place each summer and early fall. Since 2012 the county's AIS Task Force has taken a proactive approach to stopping the spread of invasive species such as zebra mussels throughout Otter Tail County.
The Sheriff's Office reported two injuries in a motorcycle accident at 11:15 a.m. on June 23, along Highway 115 near Dead Lake in central Otter Tail County. "The motorcycle struck a deer and the driver and passenger were both ejected from the cycle," said County Sheriff Administrative Lt. Keith Van Dyke during a news media briefing Monday morning, June 26. The injured individuals sustained broken bones and head injuries, but not life threatening.
Otter Tail County's Board of Commissioners has voted to affirm its jurisdiction to carry out provisions of Minnesota statutes pertaining to water quality buffer initiatives. This includes enforcement and implementation. In 2015 the state legislature adopted Chapter 4 which authorizes each of the 87 counties in Minnesota, if they so desire, to assume jurisdiction of buffer initiatives. The Otter Tail County Board approved the jurisdiction.
Mother Nature unleashed her fury late Tuesday evening, June 13, in many sections of Otter Tail County. Residents encountered strong wind, hail, power outages and damage to property. "Our sheriff's office received many calls from Big McDonald Lake, northwest of Dent, which was especially hard hit," said County Sheriff Administrative Lt. Keith Van Dyke during a press briefing Wednesday morning, June 14. "Large fallen trees were blocking roadways near Big McDonald Lake," he said, "and nearby power lines were toppled by the strong wind."
Assistant County Highway Engineer Chuck Grotte and representatives from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spoke to county board members regarding a DNR public meeting held May 5, 2017, when a proposed Phelps Mill fish passage project was discussed. Board members called for a transparent process to inform the public about project options, history of the project, condition of current structures, past meeting summaries, funding sources, and timeline.
County Veterans Service Officer Charlie Kampa briefed the Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners on various veterans programs including legal assistance clinics and town hall meetings. Otter Tail County was eighth in the state during fiscal year 2016-17 in receiving $211,315 of federal compensation and pension benefits, which does not include education, insurance or medical care. Kampa is in the process of developing a Veterans Advisory Panel consisting of about 15 stakeholders. He requested permission to begin a feasibility study for a Veterans Court in Fergus Falls.
Lake Region Electric Cooperative CEO Tim Thompson announced during the Thursday evening, June 1, annual meeting that LREC is expanding into the natural gas business as Lake Region Energy Service (LRES). The partnership is with Greater Minnesota Gas, Inc., based in Le Sueur, Minnesota. Franchise agreements with the cities of Deer Creek and Parkers Prairie are in place. "We have a $1.6 million investment in the Deer Creek and Parkers Prairie areas of eastern Otter Tail County," said Thompson.