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Grassfire burns acreage along Highway 34

Firefighters from throughout the area were called to a raging grassfire along Highway 34, west of Pelican Rapids near Rollag, Monday afternoon April 13.  
Details on damages from the fire were not available when this edition of the newspaper went to press.  As of 3 p.m. Monday afternoon, Pelican Rapids, Hawley and Barnesville firefighters and rigs were confirmed to be at the scene–along with Department of Natural Resources crews.  Photo courtesy Jordan Plotz.

Identity thefts, two other thefts reported

An identity theft from a husband and wife was reported to the sheriff’s office and, in turn, also was reported to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
The incident came from a couple who reside at West Lake Seven Road, north of Vergas. The couple said someone else used their Social Security numbers to prepare falsified tax statements.
The identity theft was reported at 8:25 a.m. on April 4.
A theft was reported at 1:45 p.m. on April 4.
A resident of 180th Avenue, west of Pelican Rapids, reported the theft of 200 gallons of gasoline. The value of the gasoline was estimated at $480.
Fort Thunder Road, southwest of Perham, was where a complainant reported the theft of guns, fishing bows, a boat motor and other items. The incident was reported to the sheriff’s office at 4:24 p.m. on April 5.

4-H’ers ‘Locked Up’  At Weekend Retreat

On April 3, 41 4-H youth grades 6 and up from 3 counties gathered at the Perham Area Community Center for a locked-in night of fun and learning. The theme of this year’s event was “Get Roped into 4-H Leadership.” Aside from the activities offered at the PACC – roller skating and swimming – there were various leadership activities led by University of Minnesota 4-H Program Coordinators and Regional staff, plus activities and games coordinated and led by a 4-member 4-H teen planning committee from West Otter Tail County.
If your kids are interested in joining in the fun and educational opportunities that 4-H has to offer call West Otter Tail’s 4-H Program Coordinator Tammy Nordick at 218-998-8760. Also check out information for Minnesota 4-H at www.extension.umn.edu and our Facebook page, West Otter Tail 4-H.
Pictured, at 6  a.m.,  April 4, tired 4-H’ers from various clubs in West Otter Tail County, Norman County, and Becker County, wait for their rides home and, hopefully, their beds.

County Human Services helps people most in need

12.2 percent of Otter Tail residents at or below poverty level

Human Services, as part of county government, is one of seven divisions. Combined, all seven divisions serve the needs of 57,588 people who reside in Otter Tail County.
“Services for a needy individual, most often, are due to a disability, health and living difficulties related to the aging process, poverty, unemployment or other problems,” said Deb Sjostrom, county interim human services director, to members of the county board of commissioners on Tuesday, April 7.
“These problems make it hard for those individuals to meet their basic living needs,” said Sjostrom.
Many people in need of services in Otter Tail County are children and the elderly.
“It’s estimated that 12.2 percent of county residents live at or below the poverty level,” said Sjostrom. “This includes approximately 1,840 children under the age of 18 and an estimated 1,612 residents who are 65 or older.”  read entire story. . . .

SPEAK UP:  Distracted driving changes lives

Extra enforcement on Minnesota roads April 13-18  

A young mother of two is killed while on a bike ride with her kids by a man distracted by his cell phone. A mother of a toddler who was seriously injured when a teen driver was reading a text said, “One text almost killed my son.”
These Minnesotans’ lives were changed forever by a distracted driver, and starting Monday, law enforcement will be looking to catch drivers who are focused more on their phones than on the road. The extra enforcement runs April 13 – 18.  read entire story. . . .

Blood drive in Rothsay collects from 21 people

Rothsay High School sponsored a blood drive  March 30.
According to Linda Elliott, Donor Recruitment Representative at United Blood Services, “Rothsay had a great turnout. Out of 28 people who volunteered to donate, 21 were able to give. Eight people gave blood on the automated 2RBC machine which collects two units of red blood cells during the donation, so a total of 29 products were collected. There were ten people who donated for their first time!”
Karen Phillips coordinated the drive. Kennedy Larson, Sam Lankow, Grant Stramer, Ashley Stevens, Morgan Lider, Maggie Melkert, Skyler Buckingham, Chelsie Lankow, Ryan Larson, and Cole Lang sponsored the drive and assisted with recruiting donors, publicity, providing refreshments, and registering donors.  
Space to hold the drive was provided at New Life Lutheran Church.
The availability of blood is dependent on the success of blood drives held in many communities. The citizens of the Rothsay area can be assured that their community is a good example of a well-run blood program.

I-94 bridge construction near  Fergus Falls begins April 20

Motorists on Interstate 94 northwest of Fergus Falls will experience traffic shifts and lane closures beginning Monday, April 20, weather permitting.
Crews will reconstruct the bridge decks on I-94 over Otter Tail County Road 10.
For the first half of the construction project, all traffic on I-94 will shift to the westbound lanes while crews reconstruct the eastbound bridge. Work will then switch to the westbound bridge.
Flaggers will control traffic on Otter Tail County Road 10, when necessary.
Work is expected to last through late October.
Speed limits on I-94 will be reduced to 60 mph through the work zone. Motorists are reminded that violators will be fined a minimum of $300.
This project re-uses the existing beams and bridge substructure, which are in satisfactory condition. The new bridge decks will extend the life of the bridges and result in a smoother road surface. This project helps ensure MnDOT’s transportation system will continue to serve the state for many years.
For Minnesota statewide travel information, visit www.511mn.org, call 5-1-1 or log on to www.mndot.gov.

Non-profits can light up fundraising efforts through new program with Otter Tail Power

Otter Tail Power Company is looking to partner with tax-exempt nonprofit groups on a free fundraiser in the Rothsay, Pelican Rapids, Perham, and Frazee areas.
Here’s how it works:
•Otter Tail Power Company will donate energy-efficient compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) to nonprofit organizations.
•The organizations will sell them to Otter Tail Power Company customers in their areas—and keep 100 percent of the proceeds.
Supplies are limited, so contact Otter Tail Power Company today at 800-493-3299 or IdeaCenter@otpco.com for more information. Applications are due before May 8. Limit 500 bulbs per request.
“This is a great opportunity for nonprofit organizations and our customers,” said Brenda Sandahl, Senior Market Planning Specialist for Otter Tail Power Company. “The nonprofits will benefit by keeping the proceeds. Our customers will benefit by saving money with discounted CFLs and lower energy bills. It really is a win-win.”  read entire story. . . .

Energy assistance for low-income Minnesotans still available

The Cold Weather Rule, that protects Minnesotans from natural gas or electricity shut-off will end on April 15. But as we all know, that date does not always mean the end of the heating season in Minnesota.
To keep the heat on through the spring, Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman urges low-income residents who need help paying their utility bills to apply for the state’s Energy Assistance Program (EAP) and establish a payment plan with their utility if they haven’t done so already. While applications will be taken until June 1, funding is limited and may run out before that date, so residents should apply as soon as possible.  To apply, call 1-800-657-3710 or visit the Minnesota Energy Assistance Program on the Commerce website.  read entire story. . . .

Comments sought on water quality report for Buffalo River Watershed

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is seeking comments on a watershed restoration and protection report for the Buffalo River Watershed. The report, known as a Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy (WRAPS), summarizes monitoring and water quality improvement projects completed over the past several years, and identifies strategies necessary to restore and protect the water quality of streams and lakes in the watershed. Comments on the report are being accepted through April 29, 2015.
The Buffalo River watershed covers more than 1,100 square miles in portions of Clay, Becker, Wilkin and Otter Tail counties in western Minnesota.
Required by Minnesota’s Clean Water Legacy Act, a WRAPS is a document that summarizes scientific studies of a major watershed. These studies:
• assess the physical, chemical and biological aspects of water quality in the watershed;
• identify impaired water bodies and those in need of protection;
• identify conditions that stress fish, aquatic insects and other organisms;
• identify sources of pollution; and
• propose strategies and actions designed to achieve and maintain water quality standards and goals.  read entire story. . . .

It’s called “CodeRED”– and it could someday save your life.

Ideally, everbybody in Otter Tail County will be registered–which will give them direct notifications of pending storms, tornado threats and any number of natural disasters. CodeRED alerts also apply to “un-natural” disasters, such as a chemical spill or gas leaks.
By land line, cell phone, text message and email, Otter Tail residents can be notified immeditely through CodeRED.
From the township to the city to the county level, area officials are getting the word out on CodeRED.  
A great target date to get as many as possible registered is April 16, for the statewide tornado drill during “Severe Weather Awareness Week.”
The county-wide CodeRED system was discussed extensively at recent Pelican city council and township meetings.
“CodeRED is  read entire story. . . .

Roadway funding a hot topic during Town Hall meetings

The Easter legislative break allowed State Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen and State Rep. Bud Nornes the opportunity to hold Town Hall Meetings March 31 in the communities of Pelican Rapids, Battle Lake, Henning, Fergus Falls and Alexandria.
The two Republican state lawmakers promoted their GOP party plan for funding road and bridge repairs and other transportation needs. They are in opposition to the plan proposed by DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and his fellow Democrats.
“Our plan is a new $7.01 billion 10-year investment without increasing taxes,” said Ingebrigtsen. “In contrast, the Democrats have a plan to increase taxes by $8.6 billion over the next decade.”  read entire story. . . .

LB Homes, Lakeland Hospice offer  program on Alzheimer’s and Grief

A free, educational program produced by the Hospice Foundation of America titled “The Longest Loss: Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia” will be offered at the LB Homes / Lakeland Hospice offices, 805 East Channing Ave. Fergus Falls, on Thursday, April 30, from 1 – 4 p.m.  
Registration is requested by calling (218) 998-1400.
A two and a half hour limited-release dvd presentation will be shown featuring experts in the field of dementia and grief support.  Hospice Foundation of America has been producing educational programming regarding living with grief for the past 22 years, with a different topic each year.  read entire story. . . .

Adopt a Highway volunteers save state more than $7 million in 2014

Volunteers helping with the Adopt a Highway program picked up 970,000 pounds—more than 100 dump truck loads—of litter in 2014, saving the state an estimated $7 million, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
The Adopt a Highway program is staffed by more than 48,000 volunteers representing schools, businesses, non-profits, families and individuals who are helping to clean up more than 10,000 linear miles of Minnesota’s highways.
Many of the volunteer groups have been picking up trash since the program began in 1990. In 2014, volunteers spent more than 190,000 hours cleaning up Minnesota’s roadways.  read entire story. . . .

WOTC Dairy Association names 2015 Dairy Princess

The West Otter Tail County American Dairy Association recently crowned Marissa Roden as the 2015 county dairy princess. She will now attend a statewide promotion training seminar in May where 12 Princess Kay of the Milky Way finalists will be chosen.
Marissa is a student at the U of M at Crookston majoring in Animal Science with the goal of becoming a large animal nutritionist. She received a State Degree and American Degree in FFA. She is active in the 4-H program and the State Jersey Association, where she served as State Jersey Queen in 2013.
All candidates are judged on their communication skills, general knowledge of the dairy industry, and enthusiasm for the dairy promotion.
Marissa is excited to represent the dairy farmers of our county. She will be available for parades and appearances this summer. For more information, please call Laurie at 218-736-6883.

Groundwater sampling planned for Clay County

Water samples from about 90 wells in Clay County will be collected and analyzed for water chemistry this spring by hydrogeologists from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Samples will also be tested to learn how long the water has been underground.
The data are being collected for the Clay County Geologic Atlas, an effort involving the Minnesota Geological Survey, the DNR Ecological and Water Resources Division, Clay County, and Moorhead Public Service.
DNR staff will contact Clay County residents to request permission for well sampling, which involves collecting a water sample and measuring the depth to water in each well. The selection of wells will be based on geology, location, well depth, and well construction. The samples will come from wells drawing water from aquifers at varying depths. Owners of wells sampled will receive a report of the laboratory results for their well.  read entire story. . . .

Proposed lake outlet proponents support downstream interests

Supporters of an outlet for Little McDonald, Kerbs and Paul lakes and Devils Lake, west of Perham, pledged to downstream residents that the outlet will not operate if high water issues affect the downstream residents.
This pledge was voiced Saturday morning, March 21, during an informational meeting held at the Perham Area Community Center (PACC).
“Not raising water in downstream lakes when those areas have high water issues will be part of the operating plan,” said Lake Improvement District Board Chairman Roger Neitzke.
Downstream lakes include Little Pine, Pine, Rush, Buchanan, Otter Tail and other area lakes.
Having control over the outlet, and making decisions on when it’s open and when it’s closed, will likely be Otter Tail County Engineer Rick West who will work in coordination with County Land and Resource Director Bill Kalar and the five members of the Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners.  read entire story. . . .

Learn to camp, paddle and more at Minnesota state parks

Registration for I Can Camp! and other skill-building programs has begun.

People who lack the experience or equipment to go on a camping, canoeing or fishing trip should consider signing up for one of the many introductory programs offered at Minnesota state parks and trails in 2015.
Reservations are now being taken for the following beginner-level programs, which start in June and continue through the end of August:
I Can Camp! – Develop (or brush up on) fire-starting and camp cooking skills, and stay overnight in tents, complete with air mattresses, that sleep up to six people.
I Can Paddle! – Get out on the water for some guided canoeing, kayaking, sea kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding practice.  read entire story. . . .