Twenty-one new units built in Ottertail
By Jenna Baker
The Ottertail City Council met for its first regularly scheduled meeting of 2022 on Jan. 20.
Like many do at the beginning of the year, the council spent time reviewing plans for the new year and beyond. They opened the meeting by passing a series of resolutions done each year, including adopting the master fee schedule and naming the official bank and newspaper.
They also approved the council’s meeting dates for 2022 and reviewed and approved the committee assignments. A few changes to the committees were made to replace former council member Judah Burlingame.
Mayor Ron Grobeck was appointed to the Personnel Committee and Michael Windey appointed to the History Web Page Committee. Additionally, former Fire Chief Stuart Fleischauer was replaced by Joe Ahlfs.
Also at the January meeting, a proposed Capital Projects Fund was reviewed. This was created per the advice of Ehlers, Inc.—a financial advisor the city consults—as Ehlers can then help the city plan and budget for these projects on their list.
Included in the list presented at the meeting was street maintenance, water tower improvements, pickleball courts, fire department needs, a city maintenance building and more. These items all have varying years that they were approved by the council as well as years they will be completed. Some projects will also be funded in part by donations and costs presented were all estimated. This is all being done to plan, prepare and budget as best as possible in order to meet the city’s needs. A work session with Todd Hagen from Ehlers, Inc. is in the works for March 14.
Continuing on the theme of planning ahead, Amy Baldwin of Otter Tail County was present to not only inform the council of future plans, but to provide a recap of some past work.
She explained that housing data is tracked and reported within the county and the city of Ottertail had the second largest number of housing starts in any municipality in 2021 with construction begun on 21 new units.
“The work the council and staff have been doing is paying off in the community,” said Baldwin.
She went on to explain that in the future, the county is looking to be able to provide even more resources to help developers and others to build and live in Otter Tail County. Baldwin informed the council that $2 million from the American Rescue Plan has been set aside for housing needs alone, noting the goal of expanding home buyer assistance as well as to partner more with developers.
Also present at the meeting was Bob Schlieman of Apex Engineering. He opened up the discussion sharing that five bids were received for the water tower improvement project. Osseo Construction out of Osseo, Wis., came in at the lowest at $287,100. The total estimated project budget is $395,000 that includes a $20,000 contingency as well as engineering fees. This is lower than the original $410,000 budget.
The project timeline indicated that the contractor has 35 days to complete the work once begun and that work must be substantially completed by Sept. 2. The city is already working to ensure work on the tower is not being done during the times of community events. A motion made to award the bid to Osseo Construction.
Schlieman also gave an update on the Tyler Wohlers trail project, explaining that work is continuing to move forward. MnDOT has been notified of the city’s intent to move ahead with construction bids and is planning to review the project in the very near future. Once approval is given from MnDOT, advertising for construction bids can take place.
In other news
• A resolution to allow for the deputy clerk to receive a promotion to clerk/treasurer from within was passed. Amanda Thorson will become the clerk/treasurer on June 1. The council provided high praise for Thorson and her work for the city.
• The council continued their discussion of the idea regarding opening up the Happy Acres development to just one developer. Traci Ryan of Ryan Consulting worked to create requirements the developer must follow, which the council reviewed together at the meeting. The council approved the requirements to open up Happy Acres to one developer as a way to entice others to build.
• City staff notified the council that there are windows that need to be replaced at the community center and the back door at city hall needs replacing as well as it’s breaking. A motion made and passed to move forward with bids and to explore the different options.