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Seven Ottertail condos destroyed in fire

Just two days after fire destroyed a seven unit apartment building in rural Ottertail, area residents returned to the scene to sift through the rubble on Friday afternoon. The fire destroyed the complex, located at 20283 Otter Rd. between Ottertail and Battle Lake. The Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Office and MN State Fire Marshall investigated the fire and were unable to determine the cause of the fire. While no cause has been determined, a press release from the sheriff’s office said there is no evidence to suggest that the fire was a criminal act.  Fire departments from Battle Lake, Henning, Perham and Ottertail responded to the fire.  read entire story. . . .

NYM City audit clean, with one exception

The City of New York Mills received a clean audit opinion for year ending 2014, with the exception of the liquor fund.
A clean audit means the financial statements have been prepared in accordance to accounting practices, do not contain material misstatements are fairly presented, said Eide Bailly representative Brian Stavenger, during the audit presentation at last week’s city council meeting.
Instead of a clean opinion, the liquor fund received a qualified opinion. Stavenger said this is specifically due to the fact that the liquor store had inventory and cost of sales issues, which were not materially accurate. Stavenger said a “qualified” opinion essentially puts an “except for” clause on the audit.
The good news is that this finding on the liquor fund should not affect future bond ratings. (The city is expected to borrow money in the form of bonds to pay for upcoming street projects).
Stavenger said in his experience, “It would not impact new bond and interest rates. It’s (the qualified opinion) only on the liquor store and only on the inventory.”

Other details from the audit:
–Calculating the long-term debt coverage in the city’s funds, the city has more than an adequate amount of cash flow available to meet annual interest and principle payments on debt. A ratio of 1.0 is ideal, and the city has 1.11 ratio. This is up from last year.
–The city went slightly over budget last year. The city budgeted revenues of $914,919, but brought in 2.4 percent more than expected. However, the city planned $1,066,837 in expenses and actually disbursed $1,100,948 (a 3.2 percent difference.) The numbers when comparing budget to actual spending was very close according to Stavenger, something the city should be proud of. Counselor Marsha Maki said Clerk Darla Berry and the budget committee do a great job.
–The city’s rainy day fund sits at $950,850, which would cover 86.4 percent of the annual expenditures.  read entire story. . . .

Memorial Day services to be held Monday

Each year on Memorial Day, VFW’s and Ladies Auxiliaries around the area prepare special programs to help communities remember and honor veterans who have died in military actions.
On Monday, May 25, the tradition continues with programs held in New York Mills and Deer Creek. As these programs are meant to remember those who have lost their lives, the audience is asked to hold applause.

New York Mills
The annual NY Mills Memorial Day Service will begin at 10 a.m. on Monday, May 25 in the NY Mills High School Auditorium with the theme “Spirit of America.”
Organized by the NY Mills Ladies Auxiliary, this year’s event includes speakers Kurt Weber and Alan Neuberger.
Patriotic music will also be part of this year’s program. Local singers Heidi Dresser and Amy Wallgren will perform a duet, the NY Mills High School band will perform, as well as the traditional selection of “Taps”
The NY Mills VFW members will advance the colors in the traditional flag ceremony and the Ladies Auxiliary will hang special wreaths in honor of each conflict the United States has been involved in.
Following the program, the NY Mills VFW will be serving sandwiches and cookies for veterans and families.

Deer Creek
The Deer Creek Community Center will play host to the annual Deer Creek Memorial Day program. The day will begin with a free-will breakfast from 7:30-10 a.m. The program will begin at 10:30 a.m. and feature the Wadena-Deer Creek band, laying of the wreaths, Honor Guard by American Legion Post 283 and honoring deceased members.
Lance Wohlwend and David Zeise will speak during the program. Loren Hoyhtya will be the featured speaker.  read entire story. . . .

Council to review annexing for gas services policy

The City of New York Mills will review it’s year-old policy on extending natural gas services to houses outside city limits.
Last summer, the city council approved a policy that required landowners to agree to be annexed into the city in order to receive city services. Landowners that already had city services were exempt from this rule.
Annexing is one way cities can legally grow and expand. It’s a process in which the city incorporates adjoining pieces of property into the city limits.  
The consensus among counselors that the policy should be reconsidered came after individuals spoke up during the public portion of last week’s city council meeting. Tyler Boyne requested that the city extend a natural gas line to his new house on Country Road 56, just north of NY Mills. The city already has a main gas service line along part of this road, as Boyne’s neighbors received city gas services several years ago.
Utility Director Kyle Mattson said he has had at least one other person approach him with a similar request. Mattson said he is of the opinion that the city should not force annexation before offering natural gas services. In his view, the city should not turn away customers.
Former Mayor Larry Hodgson also spoke up during the public forum of the meeting. He said he was always opposed to forcing potential customers to agree to be annexed into the city. “We have an adequate gas supply. It’s another customer,” he said.
Mattson said he knows of another city that had a similar policy and it backfired on them. An outside natural gas company has now scooped up all of those customers, which in turn blocked the city’s opportunity to expand its customer base.  read entire story. . . .

More than 50 new trees spruce up Ottertail

About 20-30 volunteers helped plant more-than 50 trees along Ottertail’s bike path on Saturday, from the otter statue down to Hilltop Lumber.
A landscape architect from the Minnesota Department of Transportation selected the trees to match the soil and climate conditions particular to that site, said city planning committee member Tom Behm. MNDOT’s Region IV office provided a $10,000 grant for the landscaping through its Landscape Partnership Program. Ottertail provided the labor and future maintenance.
Volunteers from around the city planted four kinds of maple trees, three kinds of oaks, 10 serviceberry trees, crabapples, spruce and lilacs. When mature, some will bear flowers and fruit, and others will sport vibrant fall colors. Trees ranged from about 3 feet to 6-8 feet tall.
Several groups were involved in planting the trees, including the Ottertail Rod and Gun Club, the city council, the planning committee and the Ottertail Lions Club.
It’s the second major tree planting along the trail. The first was in 2014, when volunteers planted the first 50 trees near the otter statue. Next year, the city plans to put in more trees north along the trail toward Carr’s gas station, said Behm.  read entire story. . . .