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OT County has more to do for more high-speed internet access

By Tom Hintgen
Otter Tail County Correspondent

Border-to-border high-speed internet access is the goal throughout Minnesota.
In the next 10 years the state wants to have 80 percent of households and businesses have access to at least one provider of broadband internet service speeds of 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 20 Mbps upload.
Otter Tail County, at the present time, ranks 84th out of Minnesota’s 87 counties in this effort. Otter Tail has only 1.75 percent of households and businesses with 100/20 or better.
These figures come from the latest broadband rankings released by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).
Clay County, which includes Moorhead, ranks 22nd and has 74.13 percent of households and businesses with 100/20 or better.
Not much better than Otter Tail County is Douglas County, which includes the Alexandria area. Douglas ranks 80th but has 7.68 percent of households and businesses with 100/20 or better.
“The Office of Broadband Development helps Minnesota residents understand broadband options available,” says Jane Leonard, Broadband Grant Administrator for DEED.  read entire story. . . .

New online tool helps find public hunting land

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has created an improved search tool that makes it easier for people to find places to hunt or enjoy the outdoors at wildlife management areas (WMA).
The tool is at www.mndnr.gov/wmas.
“We’ve built a WMA finder application that replaces a web app that was over a decade old,” said Steve Benson, DNR Wildlife MNIT coordinator. “People can now search for WMAs anywhere in the state based on features important to them.”
Acreage in WMAs totals 1.3 million acres, spread among 1,500 WMAs located in 86 of the state’s 87 counties. Using the WMA finder, users can search by:
•Name of WMA (or partial name)
• County
•Game species
•Wheelchair accessibility  read entire story. . . .

It’s Click it or Ticket time: Otter Tail County coalition urges motorists to buckle up

As everyone knows, Minnesota has a primary seat belt law. This means that every person riding in a vehicle has to be buckled up. Law enforcement can stop a vehicle for no other reason than someone in the vehicle not wearing a seat belt. Even if a passenger is not belted, law enforcement can stop a vehicle, and a ticket can cost more than $100.
The Otter Tail County Safe Communities Coalition would like to stress that this law is first and foremost a law to ensure motorists are traveling safely. The facts are clear that a seat belt is your best defense in a crash — especially when our roads are still threatened with speeding, distracted and impaired drivers. The Coalition has seen the results of far too many crashes involving unbelted motorists and the deaths and injuries involved — ranging from teeth busted out on the steering wheel to being ejected from the vehicle and killed.
The true enforcement of this law begins with you. If you are traveling in a car, either as the driver or a passenger, it’s your job to speak up and insist everyone is buckled up. This is important not just because it’s the law but for safety — in a crash, unbelted passengers can slam into and injure or kill others in a vehicle.
There will be extra law enforcement patrols in Otter Tail County from October 14 -29 looking for unbelted drivers or their passengers.  Most people they find and ticket will be traveling on the roads.  read entire story. . . .

WCI, foundations earn Responsive Philanthropy Award from state council

The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits presented the Minnesota Initiative Foundations (MIFs) with the 2016 Responsive Philanthropy Award at its annual conference, in Duluth  October 7.
West Central Initiative (WCI) is one of six regional foundations working to strengthen the communities and economies of Greater Minnesota.
The MIFs have demonstrated responsive philanthropy since their inception. They were created to be responsive agents to the farming, mining and community crises devastating rural Minnesota 30 years ago. Designed to empower and organize local people to address issues they faced, each MIF has developed uniquely over the years in response to key issues in their respective regions. Their determination and prudent use of assets help to ensure that the people in their regions have more opportunity and the best possible start in life.
Individually and collectively, they share a culture of collaboration with the citizens of their regions, with nonprofit and business partners, and with each other. An example of this includes the recent award from the State of Minnesota to support the joint work of the MIFs around Pre-K to Grade 3 alignment, recognizing their key role in improving early learning outcomes in rural Minnesota.
Another example is the small business and nonprofit emergency grant programs that were set up to quickly provide financial support to stabilize organizations dealing with extreme weather events that devastate  read entire story. . . .

Q and A: State House, Senate candidates profiled; offer views on range of issues

CJ Holl State House District 8A
Top priority: If elected, what is your top priority for the 2016 Legislature? Why are you running for office?
There were many things unfinished in the past two legislative sessions, my top priority for Otter Tail County is to complete the work that ended in what editorials across the state called “chaos.”  Partisanship is at an all-time high and it needs to end. The largest responsibility of the legislature in tax, bonding and transportation bills, didn’t get done. With 1,070 miles of roads, 50% of which are “poor or very poor” Otter Tail county needs a transportation bill.  Because of the partisan gridlock, needed projects such as the Pelican dam, funding for MState Fergus Falls and the Kirkbride among others, fell to the wayside.  Property tax relief via a tax bill also was left incomplete.  I am running to bring a new, fresh, cooperative can-do attitude.  I am a business owner and have a 10 year record of getting things done, which I’ll carry forward as a legislator.

Gridlock: The 2016 Legislature adjourned without addressing key items – taxes, transportation and bonding bills. As of this writing, leadership could not agree on an agenda for a special session. Partisan gridlock is a recurring theme. What specific measures do you support to increase the transparency and reduce the gridlock of the lawmaking process?  read entire story. . . .

Q and A: continued

Bud Nornes State House District 8A

Top priority: If elected, what is your top priority for the 2016 Legislature? Why are you running for office?
The next session will be a budget year with everything on the table. I chair the House Higher Education Committee where MNSCU and the University of Minnesota will present their budget requests. Combined they comprise $3 billion of the States budget. The committees funding level will have a direct impact on college tuition. The past four years has resulted in a tuition freeze for most undergrads. If reelected I will continue to work on behalf of all Minnesota students.

Gridlock: The 2016 Legislature adjourned without addressing key items – taxes, transportation and bonding bills. As of this writing, leadership could not agree on an agenda for a special session. Partisan gridlock is a recurring theme. What specific measures do you support to increase the transparency and reduce the gridlock of the lawmaking process?
Partisan gridlock is overstated.  The last two sessions have accomplished many great initiatives including help for nursing homes. The bonding bill passed the House with plenty of time but failed in the  read entire story. . . .

Q and A: continued

Bill Ingebrigtsen State Senate  District 8

Top priority: If elected, what is your top priority for the 2016 Legislature? Why are you running for office?
Our state and counties have huge untreated mental health issues. This is costing millions of dollars and needs to be fixed.  Our current administration is not staffing the beds that are available for treatment, causing more problems for rural counties and sometimes incarcerating people who get lost in the system.     I am running for re-election with the goal of changing direction of our state.  Our state budget has increased over 30% in the past 10 years.  We cannot continue to grow state government, as this simply is not sustainable. If re-elected, I will continue to bring common sense conservative ideas forward.

Gridlock: The 2016 Legislature adjourned without addressing key items – taxes, transportation and bonding bills. As of this writing, leadership could not agree on an agenda for a special session. Partisan gridlock is a recurring theme. What specific measures do you support to increase the transparency and reduce the gridlock of the lawmaking process?
There are 3 governing bodies in the legislature.  The house, senate and the governor.  2 of these are controlled by the democrats, so there is no reason that these bills failed to pass.  Furthermore, all 3 of  read entire story. . . .

Q and A: continued

Shawn Olson State Senate  District 8
Top priority: If elected, what is your top priority for the 2016 Legislature? Why are you running for office?
Increasing incomes for regular working folks. It's getting harder and harder for families to get by. Wages have been dropping for 90% of Americans since 1980. 40% of Americans now have an income below the 1968 minimum wage. If the minimum wage kept pace with rising worker productivity, it would be $20 an hour by now. In today's economy 90% of people on the minimum wage are not teenagers, over a third are older than 40, and the average age of someone depending on the minimum wage is 35. When big, greedy corporations pay their workers such low, low wages, is it any wonder that over half of them need some form of public assistance to scrape by? Wages are too damned low.
Most folks are shocked to learn that half of all Americans have an income under $27,000 a year. That comes out to less than $14 an hour at full time. Half of all Americans have less than $45,000 in total wealth accumulated. We're behind third world countries like Cyprus and Kuwait in terms of median wealth. The richest 0.1% now have roughly the same total wealth as 90% of all Americans combined. It's been said that Trickle-Down economics is a golden shower that favors the rich elites and big corporations.
These dangerous levels of wealth inequality cripple economic mobility, stagnate our economy, and turn The American Dream into a nightmare. We won't fix this by continuing to allow career politicians in the  read entire story. . . .

Area township voters have extra motivation to vote

By Louis Hoglund

Many area township voters will have additional motivations for going to the polls on election day, November 8.
In Dunn Township, for example ,there is a specific township government question on the ballot which could change Dunn’s governing structure. Voters will be asked whether or not the clerk’s position should be appointed–or elected, as it is presently.
A number of townships in Otter Tail County, including the greater Pelican Rapids area, will be electing officers November 8.  Minnesota tradition is for township officer voting in March, but some townships have chosen to tie into the November general election for officer elections.
Townships in the area that have switched to November voting include: Dunn, Oscar, Pelican, and Trondhjem.  
The special question will be on the Dunn Township ballot, along with four positions on the board.
Dunn voters will be aked if the township be given the authority to appoint, rather than elect, a township clerk. With the increasing demands and complexities of township government, an appointed clerk enables the township to hire a clerk as an employee–rather than subject to election.  read entire story. . . .

Area artists featured at Lake Region Arts  show through Dec. 22

Lake Region Arts Council announces the opening, October 3, of the “LRAC/mnartists.org Guest Juror, Jehra Patrick Exhibit” featuring the work of accomplished regional artists.
This juried exhibit runs through December 22, 2016 and will feature the best work from the following artists:
Blayze Buseth, Fergus Falls
Donald S. Clark, Lake Park
Grace Clark, Lake Park
Jenelle Goldenstein, Hancock
Kathryn Hagstrom, Fergus Falls
Sophia Koskela, Fargo
Kristi Swee Kuder, Battle Lake
Barbara Lent, Glenwood
Faythe Mills, Glenwood
Rhea Northington, Alexandria
Eric Santwire, Fergus Falls
Mary Smith, Glenwood
Jon Solinger, Pelican Rapids
  Jehra Patrick, Program Director of mnartists.org, also served as curator and gallery founder. Patrick recently accepted a new appointment as the Curator and Gallery Director for Macalester College.  
LRAC is one of Minnesota's eleven regional arts councils. Its mission is to encourage and support the arts throughout West Central Minnesota (Region 4), specifically serving the counties of Becker, Clay, Douglas, Grant, Otter Tail, Pope, Stevens, Traverse and Wilkin.
For further information, visit the website at LRAC4.org or call LRAC toll free at 1-800-262-2787.

 read entire story. . . .

New study looks at transportation plans as path to stronger community health

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) today released a new Health Impact Assessment (HIA) that looks at how proposed changes in the state’s master transportation plan may affect the health of Minnesota communities. The document also considers how the state’s transportation system can be improved to help foster the health of all Minnesotans.
Available on the MDH website at MDH Health Impact Assessment Reports, the HIA was conducted in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) on MnDOT’s 2017 Statewide Multimodal Transportation Plan revision. This plan is Minnesota’s highest level policy plan for transportation, and is updated every four years. The analysis and findings of the HIA illustrate how transportation systems influence community health in a variety of ways, including by affecting access to jobs, services, health care, healthy foods, and recreation. The HIA provides evidence-based recommendations to promote health through Minnesota transportation plan updates.

Public comment on the 2017 Statewide Multimodal Transportation Plan update is being accepted by MnDOT until Oct. 14. This will be the final opportunity for the public to provide input on the updated plan.
 read entire story. . . .

Krohn to retire as OT county administrator

By Tom Hintgen
Otter Tail County Correspondent

County Administrator Larry Krohn plans to retire in March 2017 after close to 40 years of service in Otter Tail County government.
Due to Krohn’s upcoming retirement, division directors and county commissioners discussed the current administrator position and options to consider when replacing Krohn.
County Board Chairman Lee Rogness has referred this topic to the Internal Services Committee for development of the hiring process.
Krohn, a native of Wahpeton, North Dakota, has served as county administrator since July, 1987.
He joined county government in 1977 as a land and resource technical assistant. Four years later, in 1981, he began work part-time for the land and resource department and part-time as executive secretary to the county board.
A year later, in 1982, Krohn started working part time as auditor technician in addition to part-time duties in the land and resource office, five years prior to becoming county administrator.  read entire story. . . .

Boat lifts focus of 2 new zebra mussel reports in area

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has confirmed zebra mussels in Sybil Lake in Otter Tail County and Maud Lake in adjacent Becker County in northwest Minnesota. In both cases, the zebra mussels were found on boat lifts when they were removed from the water.
According to the DNR, both incidents serve as good reminders for citizens to check equipment as they remove it each season.
DNR invasive species staff confirmed live zebra mussels on a boat lift removed from Sybil Lake. The DNR appreciates the assistance of the property owner who made the initial report and the lake service provider business that removed the boat lift from the lake in late September. DNR invasive species staff did not find any other zebra mussels in the lake or on other nearby equipment. They will conduct more extensive follow-up searches.
A vigilant lake service provider business reported finding two zebra mussels attached to a boat lift they were removing from Maud Lake. In a follow-up search, DNR invasive species staff found and removed one additional zebra mussel about a half-mile from the area where the boat lift was removed.
“Minnesota law requires docks and boat lifts to be out of the water for at least 21 days before putting them in another body of water,” said Heidi Wolf, DNR invasive species unit supervisor. “This requirement is one of the most important tools for preventing the spread of zebra mussels and other aquatic invasive species.  read entire story. . . .

Beer, Bread, Bible Exhibits, events set at Hjemkomst

Marking one year from the opening of “Illuminating the Word: The Saint John's Bible Exhibition” at The Hjemkomst Center, the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County  will be holding a fundraiser for the exhibit at Drekker Brewing Company October 20, from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
HCSCC staff and volunteers will be on hand to discuss both The Saint John's Bible and the exhibit and to demonstrate some of the intricate calligraphy that has contributed to the beautiful artistic vision of the project. Every beer purchased will contribute to the exhibit and several breads and cheeses will be served for free-will donations.
The HCSCC-produced Wet and Dry has remained a favorite exhibit of recent visitors, and for good reason. In a region known for its relationship with alcohol, particularly at a time of a boom in the local beer, wine, and distillery industry, Wet and Dry offers a fascinating background.
Beginning with Moorhead's Wild West days, as a railroad town known for gunfights and supplying a dry Dakota territory, and moving through its later reputation as a hotbed of Prohibition politics and eventual criminal industry of blind pigs and speakeasies, Wet and Dry will leave you with a greater appreciation of local history and a greater understanding of the foundations of our infatuation with drink.  

Silent auction for new Microfilm Reader set at Historical Society

The Otter Tail County Historical Society is running a month-long silent auction to help raise funds for a new microfilm reader. Items will be on display with silent auction bid sheets through October 31.
Please visit the museum during regular business hours to make a bid and help raise funds for their new microfilm reader. Museum hours: 9-5 Monday through Friday. Check out their Facebook page for updates on items on the silent auction.
Two classes through the Fergus Falls Community Education office are also being offered in conjunction with American Archives Month. “Museum Library? Tell Me More” Oct. 6 or Oct. 11 at 9:30 a.m. and “Virtual Volunteer Program” Oct. 13 or Oct. 18 at 10 a.m. Please register through Community Ed for those classes.
“The Historical Society needs to have at least one updated and fully functioning microfilm reader,” said Kathy Evavold, curator of collections/archivist, Otter Tail County Historical Society. “Many people may not realize how useful these machines are to the Historical Society and researchers, but they are also incredibly expensive to purchase and maintain. We would like to purchase two machines with each system costing $16,000.”  read entire story. . . .

Fall is deadliest  time for pedestrians

As the days get shorter and the nights longer this time of year, motorists and pedestrians should watch out for one another, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation. The fall months are the deadliest months for pedestrians.
So far this year, 37 pedestrians were killed. In 2015, 41 pedestrians were killed and 904 were injured, compared to 17 deaths and 837 injuries in 2014.
“With more hours of darkness in the fall, pedestrians are more difficult to see,” said Jay Hietpas, MnDOT state traffic engineer. “Motorists and pedestrians are equally at fault when we look at our crash data. That means that both groups need to know and obey the laws.”
The crosswalk law includes these highlights:
·    Motorists should stop for crossing pedestrians at marked crosswalks and at all intersections without crosswalks or stop lights.
·     Pedestrians should obey traffic signs and signals at all intersections that have them.
· Vehicles stopped for pedestrians can proceed once the pedestrian has completely crossed the lane in front of the stopped vehicle.
·  Pedestrians shouldn’t enter a crosswalk if a vehicle is approaching and it is impossible for the driver to stop. There is no defined distance that a pedestrian should abide by before entering the crosswalk; common sense should be used.
·   When a vehicle is stopped at an intersection to allow pedestrians to cross, drivers of other vehicles approaching from the rear should not pass the stopped vehicle.
For the full crosswalk law, go to: www.mndot.gov/sharetheroad/ped/crosswalklaw.html.
Because the sun rises later and sets earlier, there are more pedestrians before and after daylight hours, increasing the risk of crashes. Children are going to or getting out of school or walking to their bus stop, and adults are walking to or from home or work.
About one-third of pedestrian crashes happen during the weekday rush hour driving time, defined as 6 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 6 p.m. One out of every four pedestrian fatal crashes occurred between the hours of 9 p.m. and 3 a.m.
Male pedestrians are more likely than females to be killed or injured. Males accounted for 68 percent of all pedestrian fatalities and 53 percent of all injuries in 2015. The most cited contributing factors to all pedestrian crashes is driver failure to yield right of way and driver distraction or inattention.

 read entire story. . . .

State House Republicans unveil MNsure fixes  to lower cost, expand  health care options

From Minnesota State House of Representatives
Republican caucus
House Republicans unveiled proposals aimed at reducing health care costs and expanding choices for Minnesotans who obtain health insurance through MNsure, Minnesota's  health insurance exchange.
The press conference comes after last week's announcement that MNsure rates for the 2016-2017 open enrollment period are set to rise  by 50-60 percent or more. Enrollment caps approved by the Minnesota Department of Commerce will also severely limit choices for Minnesotans shopping for insurance, with 53 counties expected to have just two provider options.
Proposals put forward by House Republicans fall into two categories:
• Reduce the MNsure tax by half, saving families $22 million over the next three years
• Use $35 million in leftover MCHA funds for direct premium relief
• Seek waiver or encourage federal government to waive federal tax penalties for buying a non-qualifying plan
• End surprise billing to ensure transparency in pricing  read entire story. . . .