City could receive state funding, private donations

By Chad Koenen


A new community center could soon become a reality in Ottertail and it may not cost local taxpayers a dime.

During its regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday night, the Ottertail City Council heard that a bill in the Minnesota legislature could provide $275,000 in state money to help pay for an approximate $475,000 community center near the former Smokin’ Iron area in Ottertail. 

Ottertail Mayor Ron Grobeck said he has thought Ottertail needed a new community center for a number of years, but the issue was always “how can we fund this project with no cost to the taxpayers.”

Representatives of the city wrote a letter to local legislators laying out the need for the new community center, as well as the ability for the fire department to utilize the space in the fire hall/community center and quickly received an answer from legislators. 

Representatives Mary Franson and Jordan Rasmussen, as well as state senator Bill Ingebrigtsen quickly jumped on board to tap into the state surplus money as a way to potentially benefit the City of Ottertail. Though there was no guarantee such funding would come to reality, as projects can be taken out of the funding list line by line, the initial response has been positive from legislators. 

Grobeck said Ottertail has never received funding from a state surplus like this before, which would help the community meet the needs of its residents for a number of years to come.

“We would be able to put together a community center that would meet the needs for this town for a very long time. It’s a really rare opportunity and it is something we need to capitalize on.”

Ron Grobeck, Ottertail Mayor

Grobeck sad the additional $200,000 needed to complete the project was already committed through an anonymous donor and the Ottertail Lions Club.

While the project was on a list of future capital improvement projects dating back as long as 2015, Grobeck asked the council to reaffirm its desire to construct a new community center provided the necessary funding was available. 

“I think it is important that we send a signal to (the legislators) that we want to reaffirm our (desire) to build a community center,” he said. 

Councilman Mike Windey also said there were no guarantees that Ottertail would receive funding for a new community center, which would also help to provide additional space for the fire department at the current community center/fire hall, but there has already been a hearing in the House of Representatives and a similar file has been crafted in the state senate. 

“There is no guarantee we will get the money,” said Windey. “What I was surprised is how fast it moved forward.”

The city council reaffirmed its previous vote to construct a community center if the funding was available. 

The community center being discussed was a 60×135 foot building with 10 or 12 foot side walls. It would be ADA compliant with a kitchen and storage space available. There would also be a sound proof divider midway through the structure to allow for multiple groups to meet at the same time.

In other news

• Approved increasing the spending limit needed without prior city council approval for the fire department from $600 to $1,000 for the fire department. 

• Approved purchasing up to six months of stamps in June for the city. The expectation is that there will be an increase in postage in July and again in January. The hope was to save money by purchasing stamps at the current postcard and forever stamp rate.

• Heard the city-wide clean up is scheduled for June 4. 

• Approved purchasing furnace filters from Techniques. The filters are industrial strength and will last longer than the filters currently being used at the community center and city hall.

• Heard the Fergus Falls Habitat for Humanity will be using the city park and shelter on July 16 for their bike ride. 

• Approved changing the time of the regularly scheduled meetings from the third Thursday of the month at 6 p.m. to the third Thursday of the month at 5:30 p.m.

• Approved the hiring of Nessa Burlingame as the new deputy clerk. There were a total of seven applicants and five people were interviewed for the position. Burlingame will start at the City of Ottertail on April 4. 

• Approved up to $10,000 from the parks budget to fund an additional pickle ball court at the city park. Grobeck said the city has already received a $10,000 donation from the Ottertail Lions Club, $5,000 from West Central Initiative and $1,000 from the Zurns.