Probation Advisory Board composition approved

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Otter Tail County is contributing $50,000 to the Pelican Rapids School District for construction and use of a multi-use building located on the District’s property at the entrance to Chauncey Martin Field. The building will provide public restrooms for users of the Heart of Lakes Trail.

By Robert Williams


The Otter Tail County Board passed a resolution of support for development of a Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility (PRTF) that Clay County is pursuing at the Tuesday, Feb. 13 meeting of the Otter Tail County Commissioners.

Deb Sjostrom

According to Human Services Director Deb Sjostrom, Minnesota joined a group of states a few years ago in having PTRFs as an option of service delivery to help with the continuum of care for kids with mental health diagnoses and treatment.

“There currently are four PTRFs in the state of Minnesota and one in development,” Sjostrom said. 

Currently, there are 166 licensed beds available.

“That doesn’t mean that every facility is at max capacity,” said Sjostrom.

She noted the actual number of available beds is closer to 140.

The facilities are located in Cold Spring, St. Peter, East Bethel and Duluth. The newest facility that is scheduled to open in the coming months is located in Grand Rapids.

“Based on that geographic location, there is nothing close to home for kids and their families in this region,” said Sjostrom.

Clay County has been working with a provider that is interested in developing a Clay County-based PRTF.

As such, they have asked for support from neighboring counties in their proposal for start-up funding and future fundraising. Clay County is also pursuing bonding dollars in the 2025 legislative session.

“This is a process to get to; this isn’t something that they’re going to break ground this summer, maybe hopefully, next summer,” Sjostrom said.

The resolution for support is not a monetary agreement, but a show of support for a needed PRTF in the region.

The board also passed an annual resolution allowing the Humans Services department to accept donations, both monetary and actual items, gifts throughout the year. The resolution is a one-time approval of the department accepting donations, rather than coming to the board for each individual donation.

Commissioner Leland Rogness brought up the county’s Foster Closet, a mission administered by local churches that provides foster families things they need for the children in their care.

“It’s a wonderful resource,” said Sjostrom.

In discussion, Rogness acknowledged his support for the Clay County resolution, but also brought up a need to look within Otter Tail County for possibilities.

“I think we should take an inward look and see if we have facilities in our community that are semi-available and there are a lot of things that are changing in care,” he said. “Maybe there are facilities that could easily or quickly be adapted to this type of care facility. It would be a shame to have some inventory somewhere in our own county that could be a substitute or a solution.”


Otter Tail County (OTC) entered into an agreement with Independent School District No. 548, Pelican Rapids to contribute $50,000 to aid construction of a multi-use building located on the district’s property at the entrance to Chauncey Martin Field to be used as public restrooms for users of the Heart of Lakes Trail.

The school district will provide family restrooms to users of the Heart of Lakes Trail from approximately April 1 to November 1, during daylight hours and will be responsible for the maintenance, cleaning, and upkeep of the restrooms, including providing necessary supplies.

The agreement is in effect for a period of 20 years.

Later in the meeting, Parks & Trails Director Kevin Fellbaum presented the full agreement between the two parties of the Heart of the Lakes/Pelican Rapids School District Multi-Use Building memorandum of understanding.


Advisory Board

The commissioners approved the composition of the Otter Tail County Probation Advisory Board to include:

• Five members of the public, one from each County Commissioner District

• Members of the public to be selected by each respective county commissioner

• County board appoint each member of the public to a two-year term

• A representative from Education

• A representative from Human Services

• A representative from the 7th Judicial District Bench

• A representative from Law Enforcement

• A representative from Prosecution

Rogness selected Randy Synstelien to represent District 5 on the Otter Tail County Probation Advisory Board. This will be Synstelien’s third term on the Probation Advisory Board and he will serve a two-year term on the Probation Advisory Board, with the term expiring March 31, 2026.

Members to the board that have accepted invitations are: Ryan Hendrickson, Perham Dean of Students, Sjostrom, District Judge Jonathan Judd, Sheriff Barry Fitzgibbons and County Attorney Michelle Eldien.

The advisory board is not the same as the Probation Assessment Advisory Committee, which guides the consultant leading a deep dive into the probation system, according to Probation Director Michael Schommer.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife

The Fish and Wildlife Service recently secured options to purchase the following wetland and habitat easements as presented by Realty Specialist Blake Knisley, of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service:

• Keller Family Farm LLLP- Wetland Easement

• Bakken, Timothy et al- Habitat Easement

• Busko, Harold et al- Habitat Easement

• Lon and Dureen Berg Family Trust, et al- Habitat Easement

• KTJ Little Olaf Acres- Habitat Easement

• Oehler, Kevin et al- Habitat Easement

• Truax, Vincent et al- Habitat Easement

County Sheriff

Sheriff Barry Fitzgibbons presented a donation on behalf of the Perham Masonic Lodge of Fire Suppression Tools that was approved by the board. The Perham Masons are raising funds to donate to the OTC Sheriff’s Office, the Wadena County Sheriff’s Office, Perham and New York Mills Police Departments. The donation to OTC will include 11 units.

The board acknowledged the generosity and thanked the lodge for their contributions.


Betty Marx was appointed to the Absentee Ballot Board for the 2024 Presidential Nomination Primary.

Commissioners Dan Bucholz and Robert Lahman were appointed to the 2024 Presidential Nomination Primary Canvassing Board, which will meet in the County Board Room/Otter Tail Lake Room of the Otter Tail County Government Services Center at 11 a.m. on Friday, March 8.