Otter Tail County may be close to getting another $100,000 toward the County Road 41 bridge at Star Lake near Dent destroyed by arson last September.
County Attorney Michelle Eldien told county commissioners at their Tuesday, Feb. 9, meeting that a judge had agreed to secure $100,000 belonging to the defendant in the case, pending the results of a criminal trial.
“It was about all we could get held after the incident,” she said. “We’ve still got work to do on it. But I thought that was a positive.”
The funds are being held by a mortgage county for possible release as restitution, she said. Ryan Curtis Johnson of Dent has been charged in connection with the case.
Replacing the bridge will cost about $1 million. Most of that will come from Otter Tail County taxpayers, as it was uninsured.
In other action, Otter Tail County may be getting a drug court.
Commissioners gave a group working on it permission to pursue a $500,000, four-year federal grant to implement the program in Otter Tail County.
The county already has a DWI court. DWI and drug courts recognize substance abuse as an illness and seek to heal offenders rather than punish them.
Probation Director Michael Schommer told commissioners that 82% of those in the DWI program avoid further DWIs. He said drug court is needed, as Otter Tail County has the second-highest suicide rate in the state and that drug overdoses in Otter Tail County appear to be rising.
Also, the commissioners signed off on plans to protect water through what's called the One Watershed One Plan approach. These plans address the health of entire watersheds, replacing a county-by-county approach. They last for 10 years, and putting them in place garners state funding for local Soil and Water Conservation Districts which play a key role in protecting water quality.
These plans have been in the works for several years, and the commissioners are expected to sign off on more watershed management plans in the near future.
Public Health Director Jody Lien explained how COVID-19 vaccines are distributed. She told commissioners that the state lets the county know on Friday how many doses they will get the following week. She sometimes doesn't get that information until after close of business on Friday, making it difficult to schedule vaccination clinics.
It's especially important because the state wants 90% of COVID vaccine doses administered within three days of the time counties receive the vaccine and 100% administered within seven days.
There are currently no public vaccine clinics, she said, as they are still working to vaccinate the highest priority cases.
There has also been some resistance to receiving the vaccine in that highest priority group, which includes medical workers, with only 40% to 50% accepting it, she said. Some of that resistance came because they wanted others to get priority. However there have also been unpleasant side effects.
For others in the top-priority category, including elderly in care facilities, acceptance is about 70% to 80%, she said.