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County Briefs - Dec. 28 edition

Tax forfeited lands, HRA policies reviewed

County commissioners, on Dec. 19, met with representatives of the Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) to discuss tax forfeited land and the role of the HRA in acquiring properties to assist low-income families.

In many counties in Minnesota, Otter Tail County included, tax-forfeited properties, acquired by the HRA, are converted into affordable housing.

"Our objective is to get these properties back on the tax rolls here in Otter Tail County," said Jeff Gaffaney, executive director the Fergus Falls HRA.

Also speaking to county commissioners on this subject was County Auditor-Treasurer Wayne Stein. He discussed tax forfeited properties in New York Mills and Fergus Falls.

"We want to give low-income families the opportunity to become self-sufficient and improve the quality of their lives while living in safe and affordable housing," said Gaffaney.

The housing authority works cooperatively with clients and community and county agencies in order to accomplish its mission.

County board approves juvenile center agreement

County board members, on Dec. 19, approved a new juvenile center cooperative agreement.

This is due, in part, to the need to retrofit the facility in north Moorhead from a coed 32-bed facility to 61 secure beds.

Services are for juveniles with behavioral, protection, dependency and delinquency issues.

Member counties include Otter Tail, Cass, Clay, Becker, Wilkin, Wadena, Traverse, Grant, Douglas, Todd and Stevens. All of the counties are in Minnesota with the exception of Cass County which is in North Dakota.

"We join with other counties in terminating the prior agreement and adopting a new agreement to ensure economic viability and longevity," said County Board Chairman Doug Huebsch of Perham.

Commissioner Lee Rogness of Fergus Falls said it's sad to see more and more juvenile problems.

"At the same time, this is reality of life and making the necessary changes at the juvenile center in Moorhead is the proper thing to do," said Rogness.

One watershed, one plan

Otter Tail County and area counties are adopting the philosophy of "one watershed, one plan."

This plan is intended to utilize the existing structures of county government, soil and water conservation districts and watershed districts while increasing collaboration across county lines.

"We'll work to prevent erosion, ensure continued soil productivity, protect water quality, reduce damages caused by floods, preserve wildlife and protect public lands," said County Land and Resource Director Bill Kalar.

Counties work in association with the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR).

Advisory committees meet periodically to provide technical support and make recommendations. Elected officials from Otter Tail County and adjoining counties have representation on the committees.