Lighting the way

A streetlight located at the intersection of East Lincoln Avenue and North Cascade Street stands decorated for the holidays Wednesday. The Fergus Falls Committee of the Whole approved an agreement with Otter Tail Power to supply new street lighting in 2020.

The Fergus Falls Committee of the Whole approved a motion Wednesday morning which is expected to begin bringing new street lighting to the city in 2020.

The committee’s approval sends the recommendation to Monday’s City Council meeting. 

Otter Tail Power operations manager Nate Kunde appeared before the committee pitching the idea of a partnership between the city and the local public utility.

Under the agreement, Otter Tail Power would provide all street lighting within the city limits at fixed monthly costs. Otter Tail Power would be responsible for all maintenance and the city would not have liability from street light-related accidents.

Kunde told committee members Otter Tail Power has identified 250 city-owned lights that would fit into current replacement options. The replacements would consist of 30 foot aluminum standards (posts) and light-emitting diode (LED) fixtures. The standards would have a life of 30 years and the fixtures 15.

“The current (municipal-owned) fixtures are HID (high-pressure sodium) that give of that orange light,” Kunde said. “Current wiring is outdated and failing, the standards are steel and the majority of these have paint issues. They are rusted, dented, they require ongoing maintenance. There are no breakaway bases on them.”

Kunde said Fergus Falls’ current municipal lighting is of 1960s or early 1970s vintage and electrical repair work requires hiring licensed electricians.  

A new energy-efficient system would save approximately 40,000 watts per unit. The estimated monthly net replacement increase for the city would be $4,350.

Kunde said the work would be done in two phases with 204 fixtures being included in phase 1. The project scope, to be completed in 2020, would include work on Lincoln Avenue and its frontage roads, College Drive, Frontier, Union, Vernon and Pebble Lake Drive. Phase 2 work would be done in the downtown area and include Cavour, Washington, Court, Mill and Cascade.

The committee also approved a request by “A Place to Belong” Executive director Paige Carlson asking for a resolution of support in the social club’s bid for legislative funding.

The club has been a part of the Fergus Falls scene for more than 20 years according to Carlson and is a place that helps many with mental health issues.

“They really bring that socialization that we all need,” Carlson said. “We feel they are really helping. We’re growing, we currently at 184 active members.”

Carlson said the social club has some funding but they see the need for clubs in more Otter Tail County communities. 

The current funding source for “A Place to Belong” is the mental health initiative. Their support amounts to around $30,000 each quarter, according to Carlson.

A Place to Belong is currently trying to get a social club up and running in Perham and that requires a boost in funding.

“What they are looking for is each individual place to be funded, not the county to be funded,” committee member Jim Fish said.

County Commissioner Lee Rogness also spoke on behalf of the social club. 

“Otter Tail County has embraced and supported this resolution,” Rogness said, pointing out that the current funding through the county is convoluted. “It needs to be community-driven. County is difficult.”

Rogness also talked about reports that come out every year that finds about 20% of the county’s population having varying degrees of mental illness.

“It is a significant portion of our population,” Rogness said.

The committee also passed a motion to take a closer look at a request by Outstate Brewing Company in downtown Fergus Falls at the City Council meeting Monday. Public Works Department director Len Taylor explained that Outstate would like to use city property for a parking area. Committee member Anthony Hicks requested more information on the site request.

Monday’s City Council meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. 

The City Council is planning to hold a work session Jan. 6 from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. to discuss the possible sales-tax projects currently under discussion and develop a plan to move forward.

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