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Fergus Falls ice arena donors named

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Donors to a planned Fergus Falls, Minn., ice arena include Otter Tail Corp., Otter Tail Power Co., two subsidiaries and two city councilmen, according to a list generated by the group raising funds for it.

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The list, generated by the Fergus Falls Ice Arena Fundraising Committee, was mailed to The Forum by City Attorney Rolf Nycklemoe.

The Forum has been seeking an accounting of more than $3 million raised for the arena since this spring.

The list "purports to identify donors consistent with your request. That is all the information the City has. If you require further information, please advise," Nycklemoe wrote in a one-paragraph letter accompanying the list.

The fundraising group published the list online at www.buildingontradition.com, as well.

Donors are not identified by city or address. The amount they've donated is not specified but given in a broad range. For example, $250,000 and above or $150,000 to $249,999.

Several donors are listed as anonymous, and another $200,000 in long-term advertising commitments have been received, the group said, but did not say from whom.

The Fergus Falls Daily Journal reported two city council members, Pat Connelly and Eric Shelstad, made donations to the arena effort.

In addition to Otter Tail Corp. and Otter Tail Power, Shoremaster and Aevenia are also listed as giving toward the arena.

In an op-ed piece in The Forum published Sunday, the fundraising group's co-chairwoman Lisa Tuel-Ahlgren of Fergus Falls said the group disagrees with The Forum and the Minnesota Office of Administration, which ruled that the data is public.

"We believe that charitable organizations should not be required to release donor lists and amounts. Many donors give to organizations and capital campaigns under the assumption they may remain anonymous if desired. We don't want to shut off these generous givers," Tuel-Ahlgren wrote.

She added donors who wished to remain anonymous were not a significant amount. "We hope that you will respect their wishes," she wrote.

Commissioner of Administration Sheila Reger ruled the data is public in an opinion, requested by The Forum, issued Sept. 14.

The fundraising group announced it exceeded its $3 million goal earlier this year. But according to its website, fundraising has resumed to pay for amenities not in the city's plans.

The city council committed to provide $4 million for the project and handle bonding. Another $1.6 million in land and equipment would be provided by the school district.

Voters approved a one-half percent sales tax to pay for the project as an alternative to property taxes, but it must be approved by the Legislature before it can go into effect.

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