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From around the county: County resident input will be part of long-range planning

Four focus groups, totaling 49 county residents, held meetings in October to shape the content for a long-range plan for Otter Tail County. The gatherings were held in Pelican Rapids, Perham, Parkers Prairie and Fergus Falls.

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Stephanie Falkers of Minneapolis-based SRF Consulting spoke to county board members on Nov. 6 concerning Otter Tail County's long-range plan. Photo by Tom Hintgen

Four focus groups, totaling 49 county residents, held meetings in October to shape the content for a long-range plan for Otter Tail County. The gatherings were held in Pelican Rapids, Perham, Parkers Prairie and Fergus Falls.

In the next several months residents of the county will provide their input at public meetings and contribute to recommendations developed by the focus group which included a cross section of county residents.

Six elements of the long-range plan, defined by the focus groups in coordination with county officials and SRF Consulting of Minneapolis, include the economy of Otter Tail County, land use, public infrastructure, health care, natural resources and parks and trails.

"Residents want a long-range plan but at the same time don't want infringement on their lives," emphasized County Public Works Director Rick West to county board members on Nov. 6. Also addressing the county board was Stephanie Falkers of Minneapolis-based SRF Consulting.

Two questions are at the core of the county's long-range plan:

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What do we want to enhance, encourage and promote in Otter Tail County in addition to our lakes, agriculture, businesses and tourism? And what do we want our county and its communities to look like 25 years from now?

Both West and Falkers said that quality of life will be of special emphasis in any long-range plan.

"We're off to a good start," Public Works Director West said. "Focus group members were fully engaged, had a high degree of participation regarding the long-range plan and were very encouraging of the overall process."

Consultant Falkers also sang the praises of focus group members.

"County residents, in our estimation, have resiliency and the ability to overcome challenges," she said. "We're confident they can analyze existing condi goals and policies and develop actions to achieve those goals."

There's lots to discuss over the next several months as county residents weigh in on topics such as jobs, affordable housing, day care, adequate transportation, broadband, lakes, tourism and other topics.

"All of the work will help guide the county's long-range plan and create strategies to achieve an overall vision for our county," West said.

Dissatisfaction with highway projects

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County Highway Engineer Chuck Grotte and county commissioners discussed issues with several highway construction projects. Commissioners expressed dissatisfaction with several projects in which contractors have not met the completion date as outlined in their construction contracts. Projects cited included work along Highway 27 southeast of Erhard and north of Fergus Falls, Highway 35 southwest of Dent and Highway 67 near New York Mills. Penalties are being assessed to the contractors.

Emergency management grant agreement approved

County Emergency Manager Patrick Waletzko reviewed the 2018 Emergency Management Performance Grant agreement to county board members. He explained the various initiatives and projects funded by the grant.

The five-person county board voted to initiate the 2018 Emergency Management Performance Grant for a 12-month the period. The grant provides Otter Tail County with $37,292 and requires a local match.

Health fees for 2019

Soon-to-be retired County Public Health Director Diane Thorson told the county board that the Partnership4Health Community Health Board (P4H CHB) sets environmental health fees for the local county boards to adopt. The board passed a motion to keep the 2019 Environmental Health Fees the same as 2018. The exception will be an increase to the Re-inspection Fee from $100 to $125. Estimated Environmental Health Fees collected in 2018 for Otter Tail is $246,350. Partnership4Health is a collaboration of public health partners in Otter Tail, Becker, Clay and Wilkin counties. The organization works with schools, worksites, communities, health care, child care and human service organizations.

Related Topics: OTTER TAIL COUNTY
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