Tyler Wohlers Trail to be located near Ottertail

A private fundraiser through GoFundMe has generated enough money to fund Tyler Wohlers trail South of Ottertail

By Jenna Baker

Correspondent

June’s Ottertail City Council meeting was a well-attended event. At the meeting was Bernie Steeves who was there to provide an update on the Tyler Wohlers Trail. Steeves informed the council that the money needed for this project has been fully acquired through private funding obtained through the GoFundMe page as well as community support. He explained that because the funds have been secured, there should be no need for further funding from the City of Ottertail to get the project complete. 

Steeves also informed the council that he has acquired an experienced representative who will serve as construction lead and who has spoken with Bob Schlieman and Apex Engineering regarding the plan for the trail. Together, they plan to work to obtain the permits needed. Additionally, the plan is for the project lead to fully take on the role of hiring subcontractors as needed to complete the trail. 

City Attorney Samuel Felix and Schlieman expressed some concern regarding the fact that the project is taking place on a MnDOT right-of-way and the many requirements that come along with projects of the like. 

According to Schlieman, MnDOT requires a government sponsor is needed, typically a city or county, which with the plan and Steeves and his team taking over may not qualify as such. Additionally, Schlieman noted that an agreement is typically required between someone and the state in regards to maintenance of the trail. 

The two also said that projects more than $175,000 must be open to the public for bids. According to Steeves, this trail can be completed for around $180,000.

While there are still some obstacles in the way, Felix is not opposed to this route of completing the project, but noted that he would like some assurance from MnDOT before making a recommendation to the council on how best to move forward. This includes inquiring if the bidding process is required, ensuring that every aspect is completed to regulations as well as proof of funding.

Steeves expressed strong desire to get the project done yet this fall. The council all voiced opinions of the importance of this project and that they all want strongly to move forward with the trail. Next steps include consulting MnDOT to get the questions answered and then moving forward based on the responses received. 

Also at June’s city council meeting was a public hearing regarding a variance request for a 12’x26’ room addition onto the home at 233 Hilltop Road which would impose on the setbacks of Buchanan Lake. Clerk-Treasurer Amanda Thorson presented the staff findings to the council, noting that this addition would bring the property to an approximate 21 percent impervious surface rate, less than the maximum 25 percent.

Thorson explained that the required site plan was provided and that the public, neighboring properties and DNR were notified as needed. After a short discussion, the council approved the variance request, noting that the size of the addition cannot be changed and that any future additions would need to be made non-lakeside. 

In other news

• The council heard the third reading of the solar energy systems ordinance as slight changes were made since last reviewed. Thorson noted that this is a new chapter in the city ordinance, chapter 156. Council approved the adoption of the ordinance unanimously with the intent to create a decommissioning plan.

• A work session will be planned to further discuss the Otter Tail River, which will include reviewing council minutes from the 1960s to determine what has been set in the past. The issue deals with aspects both above and below the water level, making it two separate issues. According to Felix, this means that it is firstly a DNR issue and potentially a city permitting issue. The city will be moving forward with solutions for the issues, beginning with the work session.

• Thorson informed the council that painting the curbs in downtown is approved by MnDOT, with just the need for a miscellaneous permit. The council approved the painting of the curbs on all four corners of downtown Ottertail, noting that this is an issue of safety.

• Maintenance Coordinator Justin Lohse noted that blacktop repairs are needed in several spots around town. The council approved a motion to spend up to $15,000 for needed repairs of potholes and the like.

• Fire Chief Joe Ahlfs informed the council that they would like to have a Smart 911 booth at Otterfest for community members to get assistance and sign up, which can be done on the county’s website. The council and members of the public alike agreed that this is a great way to encourage signups. 

• Schlieman was present also to provide an update on the water tower improvements, which is projected to start on July 4 and end on August 22. He shared the color and design information which includes painting the base, neck and bottom of the circular part of the tower in blue with a wave-like element separating the blue from white on the top of the tower. Also included in the design is the City of Ottertail’s logo, with the otter in red.

• Schlieman also provided an update on the Thalman Road culvert discussion, noting Apex Engineering will continue field investigative work to ensure the concept will work. He explained that an easement would be needed from Thalman Road down to the lake, ideally on the property to the north of Delbert Thalman’s. This culvert is being added to avoid washing out the road as was the case this past spring, giving the water a place to go. The council will reach out to the property owner with a letter Schlieman will assist in creating.