From Pelican-Maplewood trail funding to mental health to broadband technology…

Otter Tail County visitors at the Ste Paul Capial are pictured here: Deb Sjostrom, State House Rep. Bud Nornes, Commissioner Lee Rogness, and Patrick Waletzko (seated).

Otter Tail County Commissioners Wayne Johnson and Lee Rogness along with Rick West, Public Works Director, Human Services Director Deb Sjostrom and Emergency Management Director Patrick Waletzko visited local representatives February 28 in St. Paul.

Recommendations for funding centered around three regional priorities: Broadband, mental health infrastructure and transportation/trails.

West, Highway Engineer, spoke with Senator Senjem, Capital Investment Committee Chair, to encourage support for the bill appropriating money for wetland replacement credits for local roads.

In discussions with Senator Ingebrigtsen, Chair of the Environment and Natural Resources Finance Committee, county commissioners urged support for continued comprehensive funding of new bridges, roads, and trails.

Otter Tail officials push for Pelican to Maplewood Trail

Bonding money has been requested for a trail between Pelican Rapids and Maplewood State Park and county leaders spoke to Representative Urdahl, Chair of the Capital Investment Committee, asking for his support of this project.

“Together, we engaged in meaningful discussions,” remarked Rick West, Public Works Director, “our continued partnerships will best serve the needs of Otter Tail County residents.”

Funding for mental health programs discussed

Mental health infrastructure was a highlight in the discussions with legislators. Sgt. Myrna Budke, Otter Tail County Detention Center, shared an important message to legislators regarding the need to manage mental health issues.

“In the almost thirty years that I have worked in corrections, the problems with mental illness in jails have increased at an alarming rate. Since the closure of so many state run mental hospitals, there
is a shortage of beds and resources in the state.”

Human Services Director Deb Sjostrom carried this message to St. Paul to encourage state representatives to support a bonding bill that includes the build-out of regional mental health triage centers, community placement options and group residential housing.

Broadband technology needs explored

Legislation funding of the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program was on the agenda for many county representatives visiting St. Paul.

The build out of broadband infrastructure in Otter Tail County is a pressing need for county residents and businesses.

Many stories from Minnesota residents have been delivered to local leaders regarding the necessity of continuedfunding of this program. In  each meeting, the Otter Tail County delegation stressed the need for more funding to our region for broadband.

Representative Bud Nornes has several bonding bills before the House including a bill to retrofit the Otter Tail County recycling facility in Fergus Falls.

Nornes has worked closely with local stake holders in efforts to increase regional sustainability and single sort recycling.

“This was the best Association of Minnesota Counties Legislative Day I have attended in seven years,” commented County Commissioner Wayne Johnson. “Our legislators were very receptive and wanted to listen to what we had to say while understanding our needs.” The working relationships established in St. Paul will continue as County Commissioners and staff continue to work for the people of Otter Tail County.