NEWS FOR THE LAKES AREA
There have been a few reports, as there always are during major elections, of candidate yard signs being stolen from yards.
One such report was made about 11:30 pm Thursday of a male with a gray hoodie stealing a yard sign from a residence in the 900 block of West Cavour Avenue. A Brent Thompson sign was taken.
Police were able to track down a vehicle with occupants who admitted taking signs, which were recovered by police. It’s not known whether charges will be filed.
There have also been other recent political signs reported missing. But in some of those cases, city staff are responsible because the yard signs violate the city’s ordinance on proper placement of signs.
County To Conduct Voting Equipment Test Nov. 2nd
Otter Tail County will test the AutoMARK and precinct based optical scan voting equipment that will be used for the vote tabulation in the State General Election on Wednesday November 2nd. County Auditor Wayne Stein says they do not expect any issues.
As in previous elections, the test must be observed by at least two election judges and not belong to the same political party. The test will be open to the public, as well as representatives of the political parties, and the candidates themselves if they wish. Stein says all interested persons are urged to attend.
Evansville Lane Closure
Motorists on westbound Interstate 94 near Evansville will encounter a lane closure on Monday.
One lane will close so crews can line a culvert under the westbound lanes. The work is expected to take about one day.
No delays are anticipated. Eastbound lanes will not be affected.
Pole Barn Fire
The Perham Fire Department was called out early Thursday afternoon to a report of a pole barn on fire.
The fire was reported by Norman Pietsch on the south side of Marion Lake northwest of Richville at 2:14 pm.
The fire appeared to be caused by a vehicle. Firefighters prevented the fire from spreading from the vehicle. There was minimal damage to the building and its contents.
The vehicle appeared to be totaled.
Lisa Helps Jury Verdict
An Otter Tail County jury has found a Fergus Falls woman guilty of two of four charges filed against her.
Twenty-two-year-old Lisa Lavonne Helps was charged with fifth-degree controlled substance crime, possession of legend drugs, no proof of insurance and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Helps was pulled over on a traffic stop in Fergus Falls October 28th last year. A search warrant of her vehicle found pharmacy legend drugs and drug paraphernalia.
Helps pleaded guilty before trial to no proof of insurance. During the two day trial that wrapped up Wednesday, the possession of pharmacy legend drugs was dismissed. The jury found her guilty of the two remaining counts, fifth-degree controlled substance crime and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Helps will be sentenced December 19th.
OTC Serious Rollover
The State Patrol says a one-vehicle crash in Otter Tail County just before noon Wednesday seriously injured the driver.
Fifty-two-year-old Tami Lincoln, whose hometown is not named, was westbound on Highway 10 in a pickup just east of Perham. The pickup ran off the right side, overcorrected, and swerved across both westbound lanes, rolling in the median and coming to rest on its wheels.
Highway 27 Public Meeting
The Otter Tail County Highway Department will hold a public information meeting November 3rd to discuss the planned reconstruction of County Highway 27 from one mile north of Fir Avenue in Fergus Falls to just north of County Highway 10.
The meeting will be held at 7:00 pm in the county board room at the Government Services Center.
Officials will discuss preliminary project plans, specifications, right of way requirements and other pertinent data for the four-mile project.
Written statements and other exhibits in place of, or in addition to, oral statements, will be accepted at the meeting and up to 10 days following the meeting, and will be made part of the meeting record.
Highway 10 Serious Crash
A Fort Ripley, Minnesota man and two passengers in his Chevy Silverado suffered serious injuries Wednesday afternoon when the vehicle collided with a semi.
The State Patrol identifies 40-year-old Ryan Cerney as the Silverado’s driver. Two passengers are identified as 13-year-old Ethan Cerney and 10-year-old Drew Cerney, whose hometowns weren’t identified.
The patrol says the semi, driven by 64-year-old Edmund Anderson of Ulen, was westbound on Highway 10 in the left lane east of Hawley. The semi started to move to the right lane but in the left lane was rear-ended by the Silverado.
Both vehicles came to rest on the right shoulder. Anderson was not injured.
Itasca County Missing Person Found Deceased
56-year-old Danette Marie Andrist from Warba, who had not been seen since Sunday night was located deceased in Aitken County Tuesday evening. No other details regarding her death have been released, however, the Itasca County thanks the public and all who helped look for her.
Adam Doehring First Appearance
A homeless man made his first appearance in Otter Tail County District Court Tuesday on two felony domestic assault charges.
Thirty-six-year-old Adam Francis Doehring is accused of pushing a female into a wall after an argument in the 600 block of Hampden Avenue October 16th.
According to a court complaint, Doehring has a history of violence.
Another Dog Bite
A 30-year-old Fergus Falls man was treated at Lake Region Hospital shortly before 7:00 am Monday after he was reportedly bitten by a dog.
Jeron Garding had reportedly exited his residence in the 900 block of Linden Street to let his dog go to the bathroom. He was allegedly bitten by a pitbull in the back.
Police say the dog was current on rabies shots. But the dog’s owner will be cited under city ordinance for attack by animal.
Delagoon Park Break-in
Fergus Falls city staff notified police that a storage building located at the Delagoon Park softball diamonds was forcibly entered sometime between October 12th and October 18th.
It appeared a pry bar was used to enter the building. However, no items inside the building were taken.
A concession stand next door had pry marks on the door but no entry was made.
Wilkin County Crash
The Wilkin County Sheriff’s Ofice says a 34-year-old man was injured when the vehicle he was driving crashed six miles east of Breckenridge on Highway 210.
Brady James Defries was taken by a private vehicle to St. Francis Hospital in Breckenridge after the crash reported about 10:30 Tuesday night. His injuries were non life-threatening.
The vehicle involved in the crash was totaled and was towed from the scene.
Defries’ hometown was not released
Joshua Defries Plea Hearing
A Fergus Falls man, formerly of Moorhead, has pleaded guilty in Otter Tail County District Court to second-degree burglary.
Thirty-two-year-old Joshua Ray Defries was also charged with first-degree burglary, but that charge is expected to be dismissed at sentencing. Under a plea agreement, a 21-month prison sentence would be stayed and Defries will get either jail time or in-patient treatment.
Defries broke into a home in the 200 block of East Bancroft Avenue in Fergus Falls August 16th. He entered the home by breaking a basement window and then came upstairs, where he stole potato salad from the refrigerator. Authorities found him passed out in one of the family’s beds.
Defries remains jailed on $10,000 bond or $2,000 cash bail. He’ll be sentenced January 1st.
Fergus Falls police have entered a pickup as stolen. The pickup was taken from the 700 block of First Avenue. It was last seen the evening of October 13th.
The 1996 black Chevy Silverado extended cab pickup has the license plate 177EWD.
The pickup belonged to a man recently deceased. One of his children believe the suspects had keys to the vehicle, as several sets of vehicle keys were stolen during a burglary on June 27th.
Police say the suspects possibly had three sets of vehicle keys but the stolen vehicle was the only one that would start.
Fergus Falls Tax Levy Update
Good news for Fergus Falls taxpayers – the increase in the city’s tax levy isn’t going to be as bad as first feared.
The city council approved a proposed levy of $5.6 million in September, a 6.9 percent increase from last year on the city’s portion of property taxes.
City Finance Director Bill Sonmor says new construction value added to the city caused growth in the tax base, spreading out the levy. He says that’s a way to keep tax increases down, as state local government aid has been static and any inflationary costs translate to levy increases.
The city council will give final approval to the levy in December. Otter Tail County and the Fergus Falls School District also have levies to finalize. Together, the three entities set numbers for property taxes.
New FF Firemen
A badge ceremony for two new Fergus Falls firefighters was held during Monday night’s city council meeting.
Fire Chief Mark Hovland, who says Cody Lehmann and Nick Winkler are the two newest members of the fire department. Hovland says the two will be good additions to the department. Lehmann works at Lakes Country Service Cooperative and Winkler works for the Otter Tail Valley Railroad.
Senate District 8 Forum
The questions for candidates involved in the Fergus Falls Chamber of Commerce forum Friday revolved around business. That’s appropriate, since the legislature is the body that makes rules for, and taxes, them.
The two candidates for the 8th District State Senate seat were asked if they consider themselves pro-business candidates. DFL candidate Shawn Olson says he considers himself a very strong pro small business candidate – not so much a large, corporate business backer.
Olson says for small businesses, he favors relief from over regulation, keeping taxes low, and making things as simple as possible. For large businesses and corporations, he favors stronger and smarter regulations along with much higher wages.
Republican incumbent Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen says he is definitely pro business. He says state red tape makes it tough for businesses to expand. He says he has worked with the governor and the majority party in the Senate to get permits approved or denied more quickly.
Ingebrigtsen has been endorsed by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and has received the “Guardian of Small Business Award” from the National Federation of Independent Businesses.
Battle Lake Receives Reward Schools Award For 6th Straight Year
For the sixth year straight, Battle Lake Schools have been named a Minnesota Reward School. Its’s such a rare award that only 10 schools in the state have ever accomplished the feat.
The Department of Education uses Minnesota’s Measurement Rating also known as MMR, an alternative ranking system that state officials presented to the U.S. Department of Education when they asked to opt out of the requirements of No Child Left Behind in 2011. Those schools in the top 15 percent on the MMR score are designated "Reward" schools.
Counterfeit $100 Bill
The Fergus Falls Police Department is investigating a report of a counterfeit $100 bill passed at the county treasurer’s office.
The phony bill was taken in Wednesday. There are no suspects at this time.
Kandi McGregor Sentenced
A 47-year-old Callaway woman has been sentenced in Otter Tail County District Court to six months in jail.
Kandi Kim McGregor had pleaded guilty earlier to a fifth-degree controlled substance crime. A charge of drug paraphernalia possession was dismissed.
McGregor was arrested after Perham police were called out September 26th last year on a report of a woman sleeping in her car. She was found slumped over her steering wheel.
McGregor explained to police that she was traveling from Tennessee and was living out of her car. Authorities found methamphetamine, marijuana, and drug paraphernalia in her car.
She’ll get credit for 121 days already spent in jail.
Sonya Witkowski Sentenced
A 49-year-old Fergus Falls woman has been sentenced in Otter Tail County District Court to six months in jail after pleading guilty to a fifth-degree controlled substance crime and check forgery.
Sonya Renee Witkowski attempted to pass a forged check at a Fergus Falls convenience store May 30th. Police found methamphetamine when she was arrested.
Witkowski will get credit for 122 days already served in jail.
RR Fergus Falls Burglary
The Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a burglary at a location south of Fergus Falls.
Someone reportedly pried the lock off of an overhead door of an older storage building sometime between 4:00 pm Wednesday and 3:00 pm Thursday.
A 400 watt generator, a weed trimmer, a tree pruner, and a wheelbarrow were taken.
The items are valued at between $700 and $800.
Guns Taken in Burglary
The Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Office received a report Wednesday morning of a burglary in which guns were taken.
A handgun and three long guns were taken from an unlocked shop just northwest of Perham, sometime within the past two weeks.
There are no suspects.
Ringdahl Hurricane Response
Some employees of Fergus Falls-based Ringdahl Ambulance Service in Minnesota and North Dakota are in Georgia to help with the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. Pj Hardy, Ringdahl's Operations Manager in Jamestown, says other employees are filling the gap. Hardy says Ringdahl's "Strike Team" of 12 to 14 employees is in Georgia along with a mechanic. Their work is part of an agreement with American Medical Response and FEMA.
Missing Man Found Deceased
The Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Office has announced that a missing man in Otter Tail County that had been part of a massive search has been located deceased. 89 year-old Thomas Allstop’s remains were found today (Wednesday) in Leaf Mountain Township, approximately 2 miles from his cabin where he went missing from. The body was transported to the Midwest Medical Examiner’s office for an autopsy to determine the cause of death. Allstop had been missing since September 28th. Allstop owned a cabin on Lake Spitzer southeast of the city of Battle Lake. Previously, the Sheriff’s Office stated that there was no sign of a burglary or a crime. The Ottertail County Sheriff’s Office says the case remains under investigation.
Woodland Heights Annexation
The population of Fergus Falls will soon rise by about 240 people after action by the city council Tuesday. The council, on a vote of 5-2, passed a resolution to annex Woodland Heights, an area covering 230 acres and 95 households on the city’s north side.
Alderman Wayne Hurley says he feels rushed to make a decision and was one of the “no” votes. Alderman Anthony Hicks says he’s concerned that there isn’t enough time left to kick the can down the road. The agreement would have become void after December. Once the annexation agreement is submitted to the Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings, the office has 30 days to review and comment and then order the annexation.
The agreement calls for the city to reimburse Fergus Falls Township 100 percent of lost taxes for five years. The tax rate of Woodland Heights properties will be increased in approximate equal proportions over six years until it’s equal to the tax rate other city properties pay.
Pleasant Lake Theft
A North Dakota man reported to the Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Office that several items were missing from his pontoon boat parked at Pleasant Lake north of Underwood.
Life jackets, fishing rods, a depth finder, a battery, and gas tank caps were taken from the boat. The thefts were noticed Sunday.
The victim has already brought his pontoon home for storage this winter.
Stewart & Matykiewicz 1st Appearances
Two people have made their first court appearances in Otter Tail County District Court on burglary charges related to a Spitzer Lake break-in.
Twenty-seven-year-old Raymond Jo Matykiewicz of New York Mills and 54-year-old Shirley Mae Stewart of Clitherall are each charged with second-degree burglary, receiving stolen property and theft.
The unoccupied home and garage at the lake property south of Clitherall was found to be missing staple guns, tools, shovels, a Skil saw, propane torch, and a trailer. The items, valued at over $10,000, were taken October 6th.
Stewart’s bond was set at $5,000 and cash bail at $500. Her next appearance is November 7th. A bail study has been ordered for Matykiewicz. His next court appearance is November 7th.
Marshall Baker Trial
A jury trial began today Tuesday for a Dent man charged with fifth-degree drug possession and drug possession.
Twenty-seven-year-old Marshall Ambers Baker, according to a court complaint, was stopped for speeding through Dent December 3rd last year. A deputy allegedly found a small amount of methamphetamine and marijuana in Baker’s vehicle.
Actress Faces Oct. 24 Court Date In Dakota Access Protest
Actress Shailene Woodley is scheduled to appear in a North Dakota court this month on criminal trespass and riot charges after her arrest during a protest against the Dakota Access pipeline. The "Divergent" star and 26 other activists were arrested Monday and she livestreamed her protest on Facebook. The Standing Rock Sioux want construction of the $3.8 billion pipeline halted, saying it could taint water supply and encroach on tribal burial sites. Protests supporting the tribe have been going on for months. Woodley is scheduled to appear in court in Mandan on Oct. 24. She could face 60 days in jail and $3,000 in fines if she is convicted of criminal trespass and engaging in a riot. The Associated Press left a message with Woodley's publicist Wednesday seeking comment.
Treasure Weekley First Appearance
A Wadena woman is made her first appearance in Otter Tail County District Court Tuesday for allegedly driving drunk and stealing a car.
Twenty-five-year-old Treasure Marie Weekley is charged by complaint with felony receiving stolen property, two counts of gross misdemeanor DWI, and misdemeanor tampering with a motor vehicle.
Henning police were called to a local residence on a report of a woman dressed in black with black face paint asking for gasoline. Weekley had run out of gas near the residence on County Highway 67 October 8th.
Deputies searched for the woman, identified as Weekley on foot. They found that someone had attempted to steal diesel fuel from a City of Henning plow truck.
When Weekley was found, she allegedly appeared intoxicated, and was tested. While running the license plate Weekley had been driving, it was learned the vehicle had been stolen from a Wadena resident.
Bond for Weekley was set at $10,000. Her next court appearance is scheduled for December 12th.
A 37-year-old man, with no address provided, was arrested by Otter Tail County authorities early Saturday morning.
George Matthew Solis was arrested in connection with an assault at a rural Perham location. Details of the incident are not available.
Solis was arrested on probable cause charges of second degree assault, fifth degree assault, providing the name and age of another person, and fugitive from justice. Solis is wanted on warrants out of Austin, Texas.
Parker’s Prairie Detour
A detour in Parker’s Prairie that began this week is expected to be in place for about 10 days.
Motorists on Highway 29 on the south side of the city will encounter a short detour as crews replace a large center line culvert near Lake Adley. Traffic will be directed to the frontage road on the east side of Highway 29.
United Way Campaign Asks For Public’s Help To Reach Goal
The 2016 United Way of Otter Tail County campaign is well underway. This year's county-wide goal is $335,000, and as of the end of September, they are at 37% of goal. Many Otter Tail County businesses and individuals are stepping up as they do each year to help fund crucial programs in the county.
United Way of Otter Tail County has made three areas a top priority this year, among them education, health and financial stability. Annually, 1 in 3 people in Otter Tail County are helped through UWOTC and all dollars raised by the United Way stay in Otter Tail County unless otherwise specified by the donor.
FF Police Blotter
A Blaine, Minnesota man called Fergus Falls police Thursday, reporting that someone had burglarized his deceased mother’s home in the 800 block of South Vine Street in Fergus Falls. Access was possibly gained by going through an open window. The man reported that a grandfather clock was taken. Police say for some reason, pendulums and weights for the clock were left behind.
A Fergus Falls man reported to police Thursday afternoon that a pitbull on the loose attacked him from behind and bit his arm, breaking the skin. The incident happened near the intersection of East Junius Avenue and South Burlington Avenue. The same dog allegedly charged at another resident and several officers who arrived on the scene. Officers were able to capture the dog and took it to the humane society where it was quarantined. The dog’s owner, who lives in the 700 block of East Junius Avenue, is likely to be cited for dog at large.
A woman living at an apartment complex in the 800 block of East Cavour Avenue called Fergus Falls police Thursday night to report a man in her garage who had pulled his car part way into the garage and was fixing a bicycle. The suspect, 24-year-old William Carl Campbell of Fergus Falls, told police that he thought it was ok to use the woman’s garage. But the woman told police he wasn’t welcome there. Campbell was searched and drugs were found on his person. He was taken to jail.
A court complaint filed Friday charges Campbell with fifth-degree drug possession. He was allegedly found to have 1.2 grams of marijuana and 1 gram of methamphetamine on his person when arrested, along with a meth pipe and an unused hypodermic needle. He has a previous drug conviction on his record from 2015. He was expected to make his first appearance from custody Friday.
Man Sentenced To Over 12 Years For Meth
A Detroit Lakes man has been sentenced to over 12 years in prison for meth possession. According to Becker Count Court records, 44 year old Shane Thomas Wood was arrested in August after the West Central Minnesota Drug and Violent Crimes Taskforce was informed Wood was traveling to St. Cloud to purchase a large quantity to bring back and sell in Becker County. Authorities followed the lead, and stopped Wood in Pelican Rapids upon his return. When in custody, Wood told agents he had been making weekly trips to buy meth since April. He said he brought the meth back to Becker County where he sold one other individual half of it. A search of Wood's vehicle turned up over 230 grams of meth and a search of his home turned up another 38 grams. Wood has prior convictions including felon in possession of a weapon from 2013 and multiple controlled substance possession convictions from 2006, 2007 and 2008. He was sentenced this week in Becker County District Court 153 months at the St. Cloud Corrections facility.
Boat lifts focus of 2 new zebra mussel reports
Two more area lakes have been deemed infested with zebra mussels by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The DNR has confirmed zebra mussels in Sybil Lake in Otter Tail County and Maud Lake in adjacent Becker County. The DNR says in both cases, the zebra mussels were found on boat lifts when they were removed from the water.
The DNR says a property owner on Lake Sybil made the initial report of the invasive mussels. Invasive species staff confirmed live zebra mussels on a boat lift. The DNR says it appreciates the assistance of the property owner as well as the lake service provider business that removed the boat lift from the lake in late September. DNR invasive species staff did not find any other zebra mussels in the lake or on other nearby equipment. They will conduct more extensive follow-up searches.
The DNR says a vigilant lake service provider business reported finding two zebra mussels attached to a boat lift they were removing from Maud Lake. In a follow-up search, DNR invasive species staff found and removed one additional zebra mussel about a half-mile from the area where the boat lift was removed.
According to the DNR, both incidents serve as good reminders for citizens to check equipment as they remove it each season.
DNR Invasive species unit supervisor Heidi Wolf says Minnesota law requires docks and boat lifts to be out of the water for at least 21 days before putting them in another body of water. Wolf emphasizes that the requirement is one of the most important tools for preventing the spread of zebra mussels and other aquatic invasive species. Lake service provider businesses receive specific training about this law, but it’s essential for everyone to follow it, even when the lake a dock or lift comes out of is not listed as infested.
North Country Senic Trail Becoming A Reality
The North Country Scenic Trail is being called the longest by far of any of the national trails. The North Country Scenic Trail in Fergus Falls is a nine-mile offshoot trail that connects to the extensive nationwide trail. The route traverses the cities of Pelican Rapids, Fergus Falls, Rothsay, Breckenridge and Wahpeton areas. The route is mostly a long road walk where the hiker will leave the forested lake region, enter the tallgrass prairie, and traverse the flat and agriculturally rich Red River Valley. Lowell Carpenter, with the North Country Trail Association says they are very excited that Fergus Falls is now part of the system. The recently formed Glacial Edge Chapter is responsible for the North Country Scenic Trail in Otter Tail and Wilkin Counties between Frazee and North Dakota. They are focusing initially on developing the trail within the Fergus Falls area.
Thumper Pond Tax Abatement Granted
Otter Tail Lake resort Thumper Pond is getting a hand up from Otter Tail County in the form of a tax abatement after a water park roof collapse in April of 2015. In making their decision to grant the abatement, County Commissioners agreed that it is a goodwill gesture that will ultimately benefit the county in tourism dollars. County Auditor and Treasurer Wayne Stein says the abatement will have a very minimal effect on the county…
If Thumper Pond does receive an anticipated insurance settlement that would either be of equal or greater value than the damages or loss of business, the abatement could be cancelled. At two public meetings in Fergus Falls and Otter Tail no public comments were received opposing the abatement.
Cascade Street Update
Businesses and motorists are apparently starting to wonder if the Cascade Street reconstruction project in Fergus Falls will be completed this fall.
City Engineer Brian Yavarow updated the city council Monday night on the delayed project.
He says 20 days have been added to the length of the contract with Delzer Construction. Yavarow says three things have happened to slow down the project. There have been more rain days to contend with compared to a normal fall. Underground storm sewers have been found to be heavily deteriorated and needed replacement. And heavily thick asphalt and poor subgrade materials have been experienced.
Even with the 20 days added to the contract, substantial completion should have happened September 19th.
Damages are being assessed against the contract.
FM Diversion Decision
Minnesota has turned down what it contends is a required permit for The F-M diversion project. The DNR has concluded that there are better options for flood control and the Diversion Authority's two-billion dollar-plus proposal to divert the red river and hold water on farmland during times of serious flooding is inconsistent with state and local plans. Minnesota Congressman Collin Peterson had warned that the permit could be denied. Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney is disappointed. He says he thinks politics played a role in the DNR's decision. The Diversion Authority has the right to appeal. Mahoney says a decision on an appeal has not been made. He says in the meantime, work on some parts of the project can continue in North Dakota.
Additional Holding Cells And Working Elevators Needed At County Jail
An effort is being undertaken to add additional holding cells and an outside elevator which would serve all floors at the Otter Tail County Detention Center. At present there are only two holding cells for intake and if a combative inmate has to be moved they are taken through common hallways. Detention Center Director James Stewart says this presents a challenge and opens up liability issues if someone is hurt if a melee were to ensue. Transporting clients from different floors is also a real issue, with the main elevator not functioning on occasion. The facility itself has 110 total beds, but the challenges have become some of the intakes. Stewart says a group has approached the county board and hopes to be able to have a proposal to the commissioners soon for their approval.