Broadband, Kirkbride, Nelson Lake may get federal funding in Otter Tail County

Funding is still a 'longshot,' Otter Tail County official says.

The former Fergus Falls Regional Treatment Center was also known as the Kirkbride. Forum file photo

Several major Otter Tail County projects are facing the prospect of getting federal funds, including the Kirkbride building in Fergus Falls, broadband expansion and fixing the flooding problem from Nelson Lake near Parkers Prairie.

Deputy Administrator Nick Leonard told Otter Tail County Commissioners at their Tuesday, July 13, meeting that Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith had chosen them from among the many projects submitted by the county.

He warned commissioners he didn't want them to get too excited about the prospect.

"It's still a longshot," he said.

The projects that have advanced toward funding include $2.7 million for Nelson Lake, which has risen significantly, flooding nearby roads and driveways at times, and which lacks a natural outlet. It has been forwarded to the Senate Transportation Committee. It also includes $26 million to extend broadband in the county, which will be considered by the Senate Agriculture Committee, and $39 million for the Kirkbride, a former state hospital for the mentally ill, which could be included in the U.S. Department of the Interior budget.


The committees will put together a report of which projects will get funded, and the county will learn more in September, Leonard said.

Those who originally advocated for draining Nelson Lake have now withdrawn their requests, but that doesn't mean that nothing will be done. The county highway department appears to be taking the lead, said board chairman Lee Rogness.

Perham to Pelican Rapids trail

Commissioners will use their eminent domain powers to acquire rights-of-way for the construction of the McDonald and West Segments of the Perham to Pelican Rapids trail.

The trail is designed for foot and bicycle traffic, and is intended to provide safe travel between Perham and Pelican Rapids, and the county said it has acquired all necessary rights of way and easements except for 36 tracts.

In other action:

  • Commissioners are considering setting up a Local Housing Trust Fund that would help people who make moderate, low or very low incomes with housing.

It could help with a variety of needs, such as helping with down payments, rent, homeownership counseling, or developing, rehabilitating and financing housing.
Otter Tail County's Housing and Redevelopment Authority Board started the fund with $165,000 and say that anybody can contribute, including local governments, private donors, grants, loans and employers.

At its next meeting, the commission will vote on an ordinance that would allow the trust fund to operate in Otter Tail County.

  • Travelers who want to avoid road construction on county roads can now subscribe to a map that shows which roads are under construction. The map is at .

  • A private developer looking to build 36 twin homes and 10 rental units on 10 acres east of Fergus Falls is seeking a tax abatement. Current taxes on the property are $8500, and once the project is complete would generate $170,000 for the county, said Community Development Director Amy Baldwin. A hearing on whether to grant the abatement to the Prairie View Development is set for Tuesday, Aug. 10.

Otter Tail County has added gravel to build up County Road 6, but water from Nelson Lake still washes across, as shown in this April 7 photo. (Echo Press file photo)

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