County commissioners, on Dec. 21, gave final approval to the 2022 Otter Tail County tax levy. The net property tax levy of $45.4 million for 2022 represents a 4.71% tax increase compared to the 2021 levy.

“Our constituents, in my opinion, generally believe that we as a county board are trying to use tax dollars wisely,” said Wayne Johnson, commissioner from Pelican Rapids.

Johnson and the other four county commissioners (Lee Rogness of Fergus Falls, Betty Murphy of Maine Township, Kurt Mortenson of rural Underwood and Dan Bucholz of rural Perham) take pride in keeping taxes as low as possible while, at the same time, meeting the needs of county residents.

Those needs include road and bridge improvements, public health and maintaining the well being of Otter Tail County’s more than 1,000 lakes, to name a few.

County commissioners hold evening public meetings when citizen input is needed on controversial issues. Transparency is the order of the day.

Budget requests originally came in which would have resulted in a 6.43% tax increase for 2022, but county board members made the necessary adjustments to lower this to 4.71%.

The entire budget for 2022 is approximately $159 million.

Only 34% of the county budget is funded with county property tax dollars. The additional needed funding comes from the state and federal governments for budget items such as county road maintenance and county human services.

Taxpayers, in certain areas, also pay for community development agencies, housing and redevelopment associations and lake improvement districts.

All of this is an example of citizen-supported taxes used for the public good here in Otter Tail County.

The structure of county government

County investment: highways, solid waste, parks and trails, land management and community and economic development

Safety and justice: county sheriff, county attorney, probation and emergency management and safety

Finance: auditor-treasurer, motor vehicle, recorder, assessor

Health and wellness: public health, human services, veteran services and extension office

Administration: human resources: IT, facilities, GIS and communications/public relations

Winter Wonderland events recalled

Many current and former residents of Fergus Falls remember the 1950s and 1960s when Winter Wonderland was a big event in our community.

“The winters and the Winter Wonderland bonfires were always a big hit at the southeast corner of Lake Alice,” says Pete Ellingson, a 1965 graduate of Fergus Falls High School. “The city would toss used Christmas trees and just about everything else in the pile, but the kitchen sink, to make the fire burn big.”

Pete lived near Lake Alice and says that time of the year held a special place in the hearts of all residents. He recalls the Winter Wonderland talent show at Roosevelt Park Gymnasium, adjacent to the old high school.

The Black Knights rode around town during Winter Wonderland with their charcoal pens.

“They marked many a cheek back then. It was fun for some, but not for others,” Ellingson recalled.

For some crazy winter fun he and his friends would set up a big sail, with an old bed sheet and long pole, and head down to the frozen Lake Alice with ice skates in hand.

“If the ice was new and had no major snow piles or big expansion cracks we were on our way, at a very high rate of fun speed,” he said.

Fellow Daily Journal columnist Sue Wilken recalls that the Miss Fergus Falls Pageant took place during Winter Wonderland. Boy Scouts held their annual Klondike Derby with competitions and races,

Other Winter Wonderland events included square dancing, ice skating races, basketball games, broom ball, dog sled races, snow sculpturing and much more.

“The week was a winter wonderland of fun with the community coming together to fight off cabin fever and socialize with our neighbors,” Wilken added.

Winter Wonderland was a prelude to the Fergus Falls Frostbite Festival.

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