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Otter Tail River tubing company's license request denied for now

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DETROIT LAKES, Minn. -- Though the water may not be warm yet, the Becker County Board room was a little heated Tuesday morning when it came to granting tubing licenses.

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 Owners of two tubing operations on the Otter Tail River, Charlie’s Tubing and K&K Tubing, applied for licenses for this summer’s business, but the county approved only the Charlie’s Tubing license for now.

Last season the county enforced more stringent regulations for the tubing operations, trying to crack down on underage drinking on the river. Law enforcement also had a much stronger presence along the river, which both business owners said cut into their profits for the season.

“We will gladly give up a third of the business to have it like it was last year,” said Cathy Pihlaja, owner of Charlie’s Tubing.

“We’re good with families and church groups,” she said. “We did not worry about fights. We did not have our coolers taken.”

K&K Tubing owner Roger Klemm did not agree.

Sheriff Kelly Shannon said Charlie’s Tubing cooperated with law enforcement all summer but K&K Tubing did not. He said this year he wants more cooperation from Klemm before granting the license.

He said Klemm complained all summer about the law enforcement presence along the river, but the neighbors were happy to see the officers.

When commissioners questioned whether he thought Charlie’s Tubing should be granted a license but not K&K Tubing, Shannon said, “I would rather have total cooperation from both companies.”

He added that he doesn’t want anyone to be run out of business, but he wants Klemm to run a cleaner business this season, too.

Pihlaja said Klemm has never followed any rules the county has imposed. She also said the river was broken into three sections and the three operating businesses at the time -- Ed’s River Run has since closed -- were expected to each keep a section clean.

Pihlaja said Klemm doesn’t keep his section clean and that trash continuously floats down the river to her section.

Klemm argued that he cleans his section.

He said that if there is going to be a hassle regarding him getting a license for this summer, he wanted to table his request and bring back supporters to the next County Board meeting.

The commissioners said that’s doable, and that the license request is tabled indefinitely until Klemm requests to put it back on the agenda. Until then, he has no license to operate his tubing company.

“Our goal is cooperation, not to put anyone out of business,” said Board Chairman John Okeson.

Commissioner Barry Nelson said that unless the sheriff recommends that Klemm get his license, he won’t support it either.

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