Otter Tail County Board approves contract for jail study; no EAW required for Phelps Mill Boardwalk project

The Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners met on the morning of Tuesday, May 23, at the Government Services Center in Fergus Falls.

The Otter Tail County Board passed a resolution on Tuesday that declared no EAW would be required for a new trail and boardwalk project at Phelps Mill Park.
Contributed / Shannon Terry

FERGUS FALLS — Three proposals for a jail feasibility study were reviewed by the Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners at their Tuesday, May 23 meeting in Fergus Falls.

In the end, it was ICS, Inc., that earned the seal of approval from the board, with a proposed fee of $46,500 for the study. The board unanimously approved the contract after some discussion.

The need for a review of current county jail facilities was sparked by a recent inspection by the Minnesota Department of Corrections, said Otter Tail County Sheriff Barry Fitzgibbons in presenting the proposals to the board on Tuesday.

"There were some deficits that they brought forth," Fitzgibbons said, adding that he and Chief Deputy Reed Reinbold — who was also present for the discussion — had decided to "be proactive" in their efforts to address those deficits. "The goal was to identify the needs and come up with a plan for the future."

And while ICS's proposal was the least expensive of the three, both Fitzgibbons and Reinbold noted that they were familiar with the quality of the firm's work as well.


The board also approved Fitzgibbons' request to accept a $7,500 grant from the ASPCA for the addition of a second K-9 officer to his department, and authorized him to accept any current and future public donations toward the expansion of the K-9 program.

Reinbold also presented a request to accept a $400 donation from the Fergus Falls Saddle Club for the OTC Sheriff's Posse, which was unanimously approved. The donation was presented in gratitude for assistance provided by the sheriff's office at the 2022 Fergus Falls Rodeo.

No EAW required for Phelps Mill boardwalk project

A little later in the meeting, Otter Tail County Parks and Trails Director Kevin Fellbaum presented the board with a proposed declaration regarding the need for an environmental assessment worksheet, or EAW, to be done as part of the proposed trail and boardwalk project at Phelps Mill Park, near Underwood.

The board unanimously approved the declaration of a "negative need" for an EAW on the project, which involves the installation of a series of boardwalks in wetland areas adjacent to the Otter Tail River, and construction of approximately 2.5 miles of hard-surface and soft-surface trails through the park.

The declaration states that the board, after reviewing the project specifications and mandated EAW categories described in state law, "has determined that the proposed project does not exceed any thresholds described (in the law) — thus no mandatory EAW will be required."

Two conditional use permits get OK'd

Land and Resources Development Director Chris LeClair presented the board with two conditional use permit (CUP) requests that had been recommended for approval by the county planning commission at its May 10 meeting.

  • The first permit request was from Glenn Van Zee and Sunset Development, LLC, for the conversion of a commercial planned unit development into a residential development. The board approved the permit, with two conditions: No commercial camping units will be allowed as part of the development, and the sewage treatment system permit for the development is issued prior to the CUP being finalized.
  • The second permit request was for Brent Kuehne and Kohler-Strom's Resort for the conversion of existing commercial cabins to residential units, along with the addition of two new residential cabins and 15 non-residential storage buildings. The development is located at 51021 Fish Lake Road on Pelican Lake, and will also include a total of 14 boat slips. The board approved the permit, with four conditions — three of which emphasized that the 15 storage units were not to be used as living quarters under any circumstances. The fourth condition was that an existing unit that encroached on the road right-of-way must be removed.

In other business, the board approved a resolution that would establish Juneteenth as an official county holiday, starting on June 19, 2023. Previously, the county had passed a motion declaring that the holiday would begin to be observed by all county offices in 2024 — but a recent bill signed into law by Governor Tim Walz has made it a state mandate to begin observing Juneteenth this year.

A reporter at Detroit Lakes Newspapers since relocating to the community in October 2000, Vicki was promoted to Community News Lead for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and Perham Focus on Jan. 1, 2022. She has covered pretty much every "beat" that a reporter can be assigned, from county board and city council to entertainment, crime and even sports. Born and raised in Madelia, Minnesota, she is a graduate of Hamline University, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in English literature (writing concentration). You can reach her at
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