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Thalmann retires as Henning fire chief

In his 30 years on the Henning Fire Department, and 23 as fire chief, John Thalmann has lived several lifetimes of experiences.  ¶  There was the time he met then-Gov. Jesse Ventura during Firefighters Day at the Capitol. There was the emotionally wrought trip to Washington, D.C. and Manhattan in 2003 to memorialize the September 11, 2001 attacks as artistic advisor on a Wadena-Deer Creek School play. Then there was the time he went after a man who had suffered a heart attack, while fixing a TV antennae atop a windmill tower. It was 20 below and the fire ladder just barely reached the top of the tower. Thalmann slung the man over his shoulder and, aided by others, descended the ladder. Despite his efforts, the man did not survive.
Thalmann retired this month as Henning fire chief.
“My life is changing,” he said.
He has closed his Douglas Avenue repair shop, which he had run for 40 years with his father. His father is now in a nursing home and it’s been difficult, Thalmann said, to run the garage alone. He has taken a job in Alexandria, 45 minutes away.
He will remain with the city as emergency manager and on the fire department. Henning’s police chief, Mike Helle, is now both police and fire chief.  read entire story. . . .

Lending a hand to sheriff’s office

Josh Anderson’s dream of working in law enforcement ended the year he turned 14, when a brain tumor led to the loss of an eye. Now 36, the Henning man has found a way to be involved in law enforcement after all–through the Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Posse.
Along with 20 other posse members, all volunteers, he helps with crowd control during parades, festivals and fairs, as well as search and rescue missions and securing crime or disaster  scenes. When wildfires burned homes and other buildings in Menagha in 2013, he drove there with several other posse members and stayed all night, keeping motorists from traveling down dangerous roads. He was close enough to see the fires, to see the planes dropping water, to see the firefighters emerge from their work black with soot.
“It was pretty powerful,” he said.  read entire story. . . .

Ottertail looks into downtown project

A proposed downtown sidewalk project in Ottertail could be a little more complicated than originally anticipated.
“We’ve got issues. Plenty of issues,” said city maintenance coordinator Loren Hawes, who showed slides of cracked and crumbling sidewalks at the Ottertail City Council meeting on January 15.
Once thought to be a fairly straightforward replacement of city sidewalks, the project’s biggest obstacle seemed to be bringing affected businesses on board. The job now entails the probability of tearing up sidewalk installed just two years ago, complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act and working with the state, whose right-of-way extends into the sidewalks.  
“There are a lot of things in this particular project that are unknown,” said Bob Schlieman, project engineer for Apex Engineering Group, Inc.
The council approved the hiring of Apex Engineering Group, Inc., to prepare a preliminary engineering design for the council on the downtown project.

In other news
• Welcomed two newly elected members, Jill Carlson and Ron Grobeck. Carlson is the outgoing head of the Ottertail Rod and Gun Club, while Grobeck is president of the Ottertail Business and Community Association.
• Approved sharing with the cities of Henning and Battle Lake the $1,500 monthly fee to hire consultant Traci Ryan. The cities have been teaming up to address housing needs in their communities, something planning committee member Mike Windey praised.
“There’s some really good things happening right now,” he told the council. “It’s kind of exciting to see the three cities come together and not at each other.”
The cities also plan to ask Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria and Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, to expand the language of proposed legislation that provides funding to cities to look into housing. The language now provides funding to cities of at least 1,500 people for housing issues; the change would provide funding to co-operating cities who together have a population of at least 1,500.  read entire story. . . .

School board organizes for upcoming year

A new-look Henning School Board convened for the first time on Tuesday, Jan. 13. Matt Reinbold and Terry Oscarson joined the school board as first-year board members after they were elected, along with incumbent Deb Hart, in November.
The board elected Reed Reinbold as chair, while Rod Thalmann was elected as vice-chair for 2015. Kim Haugen will serve as clerk and Deb Hart was selected as treasurer.
In addition to electing officers and making annual appointments, the board approved the purchase of a new wrestling mat for the Otter Tail Central wrestling team. The new mat is estimated to cost $8,000, however, wrestling coach Scott Hart said that cost could come down considerably if the mat is used at the Minnesota State Wrestling Tournament and the team can sell an old mat for another $2,000-2,5000.
The board approved the purchase of the mat and will be reimbursed by the wrestling boosters for the full cost of the mat after the booster club completes a number of fundraisers to reimburse the school for the full cost of the new mat.

Family Dollar Store opens in Ottertail

For those in need of laundry detergent, motor oil, clothing or a last minute gift item will have one more place to stop in the area. Ottertail’s newest business, Family Dollar Store, opened to the public on January 8 and features a little bit of everything for shoppers young and old.
Lark Wedde, who is the Ottertail Family Dollar Store manager, said those who have not been in the local store before are “going to be surprised how much we have.”
The store has generated quite a bit of buzz in Ottertail since word spread back in 2013 that the national retail chain was considering opening a store in the community. Construction on the new store began last summer.
After construction was completed, Wedde said 18 people spent the better part of 10 days building and stocking shelves and preparing the store for its opening just over one week ago. The store held its grand opening on Saturday, Jan. 17.
The new store will be open seven days a week from 9 a.m.-9 p.m., with the exception of Christmas Day. Wedde said the plan is to have the store, which is located near Otter Drive and Hwy 78, open all day on Thanksgiving.  read entire story. . . .