County to seek grants to enhance Otter Tail County Safe Communities Coalition

Photo by Tom Hintgen
County Health Educator Emily Frustol, left, and County Public Health Director Jody Lien spoke to county board members on Sept. 26 about the Safe Communities Coalition.

By Tom Hintgen

Otter Tail County Correspondent

County Commissioners, on Sept. 26, approved a grant agreement with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety for traffic safety projects during the period from Oct. 1, 2023, through Sept. 30, 2024.

Otter Tail County Public Health was authorized to oversee the agreement and implement the project. This program is tied to the Otter Tail County Safe Communities Coalition.

“The resolution approved by our county board allows us to accept the grant and do the work,” said County Public Health Director Jody Lien.

In turn, the funding helps support the role of County Health Educator Emily Frustol to coordinate and convene countywide stakeholders to discuss and implement a work plan.

Says Frustol, “We will work with stakeholders who represent a variety of agencies throughout Otter Tail County. The funds help us with outreach in our communities regarding traffic safety and working toward our overall mission to bring roadway fatalities down to zero.”

The mission of the Safe Communities Coalition in Otter Tail County, in coordination with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, is to raise awareness of traffic safety issues and to develop tools that can be used to reduce the number of deaths and injuries resulting from traffic accidents.

  Members represent agencies including education, public health, engineering, law enforcement, public safety and emergency medical and trauma services. 

“The approach is used to reduce deaths on Otter Tail County roads,” Lien said.

Unfortunately, Otter Tail County in recent years has been ranked among the 13 most dangerous drunk-driving counties in the state of Minnesota. There are 87 counties in Minnesota.

The county sheriff’s office applies for a Toward Zero Deaths enforcement grant each year to provide additional patrols during peak drunk driving times. The Safe Communities Coalition assists in advertising extra law enforcement patrols placed on roadways and attends events to encourage people to find safe transportation.

County police departments also become involved with traffic safety. One example is the New York Mills Police Department working together with Otter Tail County’s Safe Communities Coalition and New York Mills High School to organize a Mock Crash Event for high school students.

All of the participants, including Otter Tail County Public Health, have a goal to change driving habits while ultimately protecting the lives of drivers, their families and others on the road.