Ottertail council hears from WCI

By Jenna Baker


At July’s Ottertail City Council meeting, the council and public heard from Samantha VanWechel-Meyer who was present to provide updates from West Central Initiative and answer any questions the council may have. She thanked the council for their partnership and support and noted that the City of Ottertail received just under $68,000 in grant funds to the community.

VanWechel-Meyer explained that West Central Initiative’s work is in economic, community and workforce development. She explained that they provide loan programs for businesses such as gap financing and loans in full. Their community development work includes grants, community funded programs and childcare initiatives. Workforce development is done through the “Live Wide Open” campaign, which shares stories of people who live and work in the area or recently moved to town.

A recent project that VanWechel-Meyer shared is that West Central Initiative is currently looking to plant apple trees in a public place in the 82 communities they serve, should each city decide to do so. She explained that they are working with local nurseries to provide these for the cities, taking into consideration what type each community would like. The council was enthusiastic about the idea and future discussion will be held.

Also at July’s meeting, the council received an update on the pickleball courts, noting that budget-wise, things are sitting well with the funds. A few hundred hours of volunteer work have been put in. 

Also discussed was the need for signage of some sort to encourage sharing of the space as these are also available for basketball. One idea that was brought up was to, at some point, create a time schedule for when the courts are available for pickleball and when they are available for basketball. 

Additionally discussed was the damage and vandalism that has been seen at the courts, including to the hoops and backboards, bringing up the idea of installing cameras to combat this. A meeting is being scheduled to further discuss what can be done for the issues of vandalism and sharing the space between the pickleball players and basketball players. 

Bob Schlieman of Apex Engineering was also present at the July meeting, sharing word from the contractor for the water tower improvements. He explained that the contractor is not able to get the specified paint colors until early September. This changes the completion timeline, with substantial completion now by September 15th and final completion of Sept. 30. Another change needed would be that the tank be removed from service for no more than 40 days rather than 35. 

Schlieman also noted that the work has been completed on the altitude valve that regulates the flow of water from the City of Henning so it can also function as a pressure reducing device.The council approved a motion for a change order to the plan for the water tower improvements and painting.  

In other news

• Schlieman presented to the council a cover letter and task order agreement created for the Tyler Wohlers trail project so that the city would own an entire copy of the plan. City Attorney Sam Felix recommended that before these be disclosed to anyone, a plan and waiver of liability should be in place. The council approved the task order. Schlieman also explained that because of a lack of activity on the project, MnDOT has canceled the permit and will need to do another review of the land because the land the project is proposed to be built on is on a historical sensitive area. 

• Mayor Ron Grobeck provided an update on the breach of the Otter Tail River that occurred last fall, noting that the DNR is going to work to restore the river and sandbars to the pre-breached status. The DNR will contact landowners as needed and work to obtain proper permitting, including working with the city as and if needed. 

• Maintenance Coordinator Justin Loshe informed the council that the potholes around Ottertail Ave, Elevator Drive and Shores Road can be repaired for less than $1,000. 

• A work session has been set to discuss budgeting as the proposed 2023 budget has to be completed by the September council meeting. The session has been scheduled for Thursday, September 1st at 5:30 p.m. 

• A tax abatement resolution for the twin homes at 112 and 114 Thumper Lodge Road and 122 and 124 Thumper Lodge Road was reviewed during a brief public hearing. The twin homes were approved to be built at the June meeting. After the council reviewed the application and held a short discussion, the resolution passed unanimously. 

• The fire department has had 106 calls already this year. In comparison, last year there were 130 calls total and in 2020 there were 150 for the entire year.