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Area residents provide input for what the county should look like

What should Otter Tail County look like in 20 years? That question is what county commissioners started asking themselves before embarking on the county's first long-range strategic plan.

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Perham residents met with county officials to talk about the long-term strategic plan at the PACC on Wednesday, March 13. (Carter Jones/ FOCUS)

What should Otter Tail County look like in 20 years? That question is what county commissioners started asking themselves before embarking on the county's first long-range strategic plan.

At an open house meeting at the PACC on Wednesday, March 13, residents provided input and heard answers about the planning process that will soon guide decision making at all levels of county government.

The plan has three major goals; to engage residents and get input for the future, to review opportunities and challenges in existing county systems and to develop a vision and goals for the future that can be used as a tool for future decision making.

County Commissioner Doug Huebsch said by 2030 Otter Tail County will have 9,000 fewer workers.

"We really have to work hard to compete with other counties and their workers," Huebsch said. "Our whole county depends on these workers to process products and make our economy work. That's what keeps hospitals and schools and everything else open."

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The plan revolves around five elements including land use, economy, public infrastructure, parks and trails and natural resources.

At the open house, residents were given stickers and told to place them on a scale where they felt the county was doing well or lacking in each plan element. This input will be compiled and used to construct the final report, expected in 12 to 14 months.

Stephanie Falkers, a planner for SRF Consulting, said the strategic plan will guide policy decisions right away, while other elements are 10 to 15 years down the road.

Rick West, Otter Tail County public works director, said if you have a plan, you can tweak the plan, but if you don't have a plan, you have nothing.

New York Mills Cultural Center Director Betsy Roder said the plan is a great start, but not including arts and culture is a big omission.

"It's only going to do more to attract residents and visitors alike," she said. "We're already doing a lot of great work, even just talking about it and giving ourselves credit for the work that's already happening in the county."

Larry Richter, a Wadena resident, said he liked to see everyone's input on the boards and get a view of where the focus is.

"We know why we live here - the great outdoors, schools, communities," he said. "I want to keep our little secret."

Related Topics: OTTER TAIL COUNTY
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