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W. Otter Tail 4-H’ers learn to lead

More than 450 youth learn leadership skills at 2015 4-H Leadership event.

In February and March, more than 450 youth from across Minnesota, 18 of them from West Otter Tail County, gathered to participate in the annual 4-H Building Leadership and Understanding (BLU) youth leadership conferences.
The five regional two-day BLU leadership events were filled with exciting and fun activities that help youth learn and practice valuable leadership skills that they will be able to take back with them to their counties and communities, and use throughout their lives.
This year’s conference theme was "The Diamond Within,” which was selected by the 4-H ambassadors because they believe one of the most important things youth can do is to learn about themselves.  Fun and engaging activities guided participants in exploring self-awareness, learning about their personalities, how this insight can help youth work with others more effectively, and healthy ways to deal with the stresses they face in their daily lives.  read entire story. . . .

Lakes Area Co-op records $81.2 million in 2014 sales

he Lakes Area Cooperative (LAC) held its 102nd annual stockholders meeting at The Wild Oaks in Perham.
The meeting was called to order  by President John Schultz. Secretary Marlin Flatau gave the board of directors’ report and thanked the patrons and the employees for their support in 2014.
Controller Gary Fischer presented the audit, reporting sales of $81.2 million and earnings of $4.46 million.
Dale Tellinghuisen then gave a detailed report of 2014 and looked forward to 2015. Financials of Professional Agronomy Services LLC fertilizer and supply joint venture with Crop Production Services was also discussed and has completed its third successful year of operation.  read entire story. . . .

Vergas-area agronomist earns U of M honor for sunflower work

A Vergas man who is a pioneer in sunflower production and processing, was awarded the prestigious Siehl Prize in Agriculture last week.
It is one of many honors for Gerhardt “Gary” Fick, who played a major role in “creating” the vast fields of yellow flowers that spanned the landscape, especially in the 1970s and 1980s.
 Last year,  Fick earned the National Sunflower Association’s Gold Award, which is presented annually to “individuals who have contributed to the overall sunflower industry, either through their occupation or through the association.”  
Dr. Gerhardt (Gary) Fick, is the 2014 Gold Award recipient.
Last week, he received the prestigious Siehl Award for Excellence from the University of Minnesota.  read entire story. . . .

Car in wrong lane of I-94 results in head-on collision

The Sheriff’s Office reported that a vehicle traveling in the wrong lane of Interstate 94 resulted in a head-on collision Monday afternoon, March 16, near Fergus Falls. Three people were injured, one seriously, at 2:15 p.m.
Jana Battern, 43, of Fergus Falls, was driving westbound but in the eastbound lane of the interstate. A passenger in her vehicle was Paul Burton, 68, also of Fergus Falls. Both had non-life-threatening injuries.
The Sheriff’s Office and State Patrol said that alcohol was a factor and that charges against Battern were pending.
Seriously injured in the accident was the driver traveling in the correct lane. He was identified as 23-year-old Elias Youngblom of Coon Rapids, Minn. First responders needed to extricate Youngblom from his vehicle.
Youngblom was airlifted to Sanford Health in Fargo.
The eastbound lane of Interstate 94 was closed from 2:15 to 3:30 p.m. Traffic was rerouted through Fergus Falls during that time frame.  read entire story. . . .

No tax increase in Pelican Township

Levy to remain at $180,000

Pelican Township taxpayers will see no increase, following action at the annual township meeting earlier in March.
The tax levy will remain the same for the second straight year–at a total of $180,000.
The levy was approved at the lightly-attended annual meeting March 10, when about a half dozen gathered at the Pelican Rapids fire hall.
Township expenses came in under budget last year, spending about $30,000 less on roads than it budgeted–at $128,500.
The 2015 road budget was again set at $128,500
Fire protection will be $18,250. The general fund budget also remained the same, at $33,500.
The only substantial road project slated this summer is  improvement of a minimum maintenance road, 430th street, to the east of Prairie Lake.
Pelican Township increased its allocation to the Pelican Rapids Public Library, from $3,500 last year to $4,000.  Township voters also earmarked $500 to the Otter Tail County Historical Society.

Spring burning restrictions in effect this week in much of MN

The Department of Natural Resources will restrict debris burning in many northwestern, southern and central Minnesota counties this week, beginning Wednesday, March 25, and in other parts of the state beginning in April.
Burning restrictions mean the state will not allow the open burning of brush or yard waste. Debris burning is especially dangerous during April and May when most wildfires occur in Minnesota.  
“The spring fire restrictions have resulted in a dramatic decrease in both the number and size of accidental fires,” said Ron Stoffel, DNR wildfire suppression supervisor.
Counties can be quickly added to the restrictions list during dry, windy days when fires could easily burn out of control. Therefore, residents are encouraged to visit www.dnr.state.mn.us/forestry/fire/firerating_restrictions.html or call their local forestry office to obtain up-to-date information on fire danger and burning restrictions.
In addition, many local counties and municipalities have specific burning regulations or restrictions. Check with local authorities to obtain proper permits before burning.
The burning restrictions do not apply to campfires; they are still allowed. Clear an area around the campfire, watch it continuously and make sure it is out and cold to the touch before leaving.

Dunn, Scambler receive updates on Pelican Valley

Reports on the Pelican Valley Hospital District were presented at area annual township meetings–including Dunn and Scambler Townships.
Facing losses of more than $200,000 in 2014, and potentially more losses in 2015, the Pelican Valley board voted to reinstate a levy to all jurisdictions within the hospital district. A levy of $150,000 will be spread among taxpayers, and will be reflected in the Otter Tail County property tax statements mailed to property owners in May.
The Pelican Valley board is moving ahead with a $5.6 million building renovation project, which is intended to modernize the facility and reduce nursing home vacancies, reported Dave Slotten at the March 10 Dunn Township annual meeting.  read entire story. . . .

Stolen trailer from Pelican  recovered

A trailer reported stolen from Egge Construction, Pelican Rapids, was recovered in Renville County  near Redwood Falls in southwestern Minnesota.
Sheriff deputies in that county had been investigating the theft of another trailer. Ironically, the stolen trailer from Renville County was later found in Otter Tail County, near Star Lake and near the town of Dent.
Both trailers have been returned to their respective owners. The suspect related to both thefts reportedly lives in another state, according to the Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Office.

Car on fire also damages home near Elizabeth

A vehicle that caught fire on a driveway close to Highway 3, northeast of Elizabeth, also damaged the siding at a nearby residence.
The Elizabeth Fire Department was at the scene after authorities were called at 6:07 p.m. on March 12. The vehicle, a 1999 Pontiac Grand Prix, was parked close enough to the residence to cause heat damage to the vinyl siding.
“The car fire was extinguished but the damaged Pontiac was a total loss,” said Sheriff Lt. Barry Fitzgibbons. “There were no injuries.”  read entire story. . . .

Three theft reports scattered around Otter Tail County

The Sheriff’s Office reported three thefts in Otter Tail County in recent days.
At Fort Thunder Road, southwest of Perham, a business owner reported the theft of 200 gallons of diesel fuel from two vehicles. This was reported at 10:06 a.m. on March 17.
Approximately $500 worth of fishing equipment was taken from a structure at Antler Lane, at the southwestern section of Clitherall Lake. This theft was reported to the Sheriff’s Office at 12:31 p.m. on March 17.
Shoplifting took place at the Underwood Liquor Store. This was called in at 8:09 p.m. on March 18.
Sheriff deputies said the suspect is believed to be a female from Fargo. She reportedly had an accomplice in the theft.  read entire story. . . .

First Motorcycle Fatality of Year

he first motorcycle fatality of 2015 happened Sunday, March 15 in Sherburne County.
A 53-year-old man was riding eastbound on County Road 3 in Santiago Township around 6:30 p.m., when he ran off the road and hit a mailbox, according to the Sherburne County Sheriff’s Office. Authorities say he was not wearing a helmet, and the preliminary investigation shows speed appears to be a factor.  read entire story. . . .

Early start to fire season likely

With the recent warm weather, Department of Natural Resources fire behavior analysts are predicting an early start to Minnesota’s spring fire season.
With early temperatures  in the 40s and 50s it took care of what little snowpack the state had this winter. Plus, forecasts for the next two weeks show mild temperatures and a dry weather pattern. Minnesota also had a relatively dry fall and very little snow this winter. All of this points toward abnormally dry conditions in early spring.
In addition to predicting an early start to the spring fire season, fire behavior analysts say that based on past weather patterns and fire occurrence, Minnesota will likely have an average to above average number of fires this spring. Without the snow compaction, grass fires will move faster and be more intense. And, with dry conditions, Minnesota could face fire mop-up and peat fire issues.  read entire story. . . .

AgCountry distributes $12 million to member-owners

AgCountry Farm Credit Services recently paid $12 million in cash patronage to their member-owners based on the company's 2014 earnings.
The distribution was announced in January, and was paid out to member-owners this March in proportion to their 2014 eligible loan business.
"We work hard to maintain a strong cooperative, and being able to share a portion of our income is something that gives us great pride," says Bob Bahl, AgCountry President & CEO. "We're owned by the farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses that we serve, and paying patronage is an important part of the value we deliver."
"Having the ability to return a portion of our cooperative's profits back to the customers we are working for is a wonderful feeling," says Scott Dethlefsen, Loan Officer and Branch Manager of the Fergus Falls office. "It's great to know some of this is going to our producers right here in the Fergus Falls and surrounding areas."
Headquartered in Fargo, ND, AgCountry provides credit and financial services to farmers, ranchers and rural customers in eastern ND and northwest and west central MN and to agribusinesses across the United States.

Budget plan helps maintain vitality of state parks

More than 8 million people visit Minnesota state parks each year with nearly 1.3 million of them traveling from other states or countries. This year, Gov. Mark Dayton has recommended a much-needed boost in funding for Minnesota state parks and recreation areas to ensure that they remain well-maintained attractions.
The economic benefits to Greater Minnesota communities that host state parks can be significant. In 2012, visitors to Minnesota state parks spent $231 million annually on their trips, supporting thousands of local jobs across Minnesota.
The additional funding proposed by the governor would allow state parks to continue operating at present service levels, providing for 154,000 hours of customer service and keeping many parks open into Minnesota’s beautiful fall season.  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. . . .

Ice ridges on area lakes  generate interest, concern

Many people are noticing the spectacular ice formations, or “ice ridges,” that are pushing up on the shorelines of our lakes this winter. Some lakeshore property owners are not so impressed, as these ice ridges are causing damage to their shorelines and property, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Once ice forms in the winter, it is continually expanding and contracting as the temperatures rise and fall. This is especially true in winters such as this, which lack an insulating snow cover.
Both the expansion of ice and free-floating, windblown ice sheets can exert tremendous pressure against the shore, pushing the soil into ice ridges (also known as "ice pushes" or "ramparts") as high as 5 feet or more. These powerful forces have been known to nudge masonry bridge piers out of plumb and push houses and other structures off their foundations.  read entire story. . . .

Road costs prompt townships to experiment with maintenance

With new blacktop costs running $1 million a mile and sealcoating averaging about $20,000 a mile, several townships in the greater Pelican area are experimenting with a new road maintenance product.
In an effort to add a few years to the lifespan of aging roads, Dunn, Scambler and Lida are among the townships trying an alternative  process.  
“We’re trying it out for a few miles to see how it works,” said Al Schierman at the Lida Township annual meeting.  
The alternative process helps stabilize aging blacktop–with the goal of delaying the heavy expense of  full reconstruction for a few years. The matter was discussed at the Lida township annual meeting.  According to board member Schierman, the process is not as effective on higher-traffic volume roads with heavier truck movement; but has a track record on lower volume township roads.  Otter Tail County highway department, for example, has not fully embraced the alternative product and process, in large part because county roads are higher use for the most part, it was noted at the Lida meeting.  read entire story. . . .

Legislation to bring state road money to cities backed by Pelican Council

Trail open house April 2 at Pelican library, 6-8 p.m.

Trails and transportation were two items on the Pelican Rapids City Council agenda Feb. 24.
A regional recreational trail planning open house, hosted by the Partnership4Health, will be at the  Pelican Rapids Public Library April 2, from 6-8 p.m.  Among the topics that is sure to be discussed is the proposed Pelican Rapids to Maplewood State Park to Perham trail.
The meeting is being organized by the health partnership and West Central Initiative.  Further details will be available closer to the April 2 date.
Meanwhile, the council also threw its support behind a League of Minnesota Cities initiative calling for state road funds for cities.
As it stands now, more than 700 Minnesota cities with populations below 5,000 are ineligible for dedicated Highway User Tax Distribution Fund dollars.
About 19,000 miles of roadway are owned and maintained by 852 Minnesota cities–most of which do not qualify for any road-street maintenance money from the statewide gas tax.
The Pelican Rapids city council voted unanimously to support for legislation that would bring some funding to the local level.


Free concert by A Center for the Arts’ Children’s Choirs

A Center for the Arts is proud of its children’s choirs and will be showcasing their incredible talents at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 28 at AC4TA’s Fergus Theatre, 124 W. Lincoln Ave., downtown Fergus Falls.
The concert is free and open to the public. For more information, call AC4TA at 218-998-2787 or visit www.FergusArts.org.
A Center for the Arts has three children’s choirs separated by grade: Grades K-1, Grades 2-3, and Grades 4-6. All three choirs will be performing in this year’s concert.
Aimee Nordlund teaches the Grade K-1 choir from 3:30 to 4 p.m. Her choir meets in the Bakken Building at 115½ West Lincoln Ave. Nordlund introduces her students to healthy singing with lively songs and activities. She also introduces concepts such as rhythm, breath support and enunciation. Her choir will be accompanied by Chloe Schindler.  read entire story. . . .

Mobile food drop coordinated for people in need

United Way, Federated Church & Friends of Friends Fighting Hunger are coordinating a Mobile Food Drop for people in need, Friday, March 27 according to Christi Stoll, United Way of Otter Tail County Volunteer and Events Coordinator.
There will be a mobile food drop for residents of Otter Tail County in Fergus Falls on Friday, March 27 at the Fergus Falls National Guard Armory. Registration will start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. and food will be distributed at 11:00 a.m. You must be a resident of Otter Tail County and in need of food to participate. Please bring boxes or baskets to carry the food. Participants will also be able to connect with human service organizations, receive gently used clothing from “Caring Neighbors” and many other programs during the morning.  read entire story. . . .