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Published December 05 2011

Cass County Commission denies secession seekers' petition

FARGO – Rural Cass County residents seeking to secede from the county will have to live with what they’ve got, at least until November.

Cass County commissioners denied a petition Monday from 15 residents who wanted county lines redrawn so they could join the northeastern edge of Richland County.

The residents, who live in Pleasant Township, believe Richland County leaders would be more responsive to their concerns, specifically about the Fargo-Moorhead diversion project.

The residents’ petition declared it was their “firm belief we’d be better represented and our needs be better met by Richland County.”

While acknowledging the sleight to sitting board members in Cass County, Commissioner Darrell Vanyo said the democratic process is the traditional path to address such dissatisfaction.

Wanting to secede to another county “because we don’t feel elected officials are doing their job and representing the people, I think that’s dangerous,” Vanyo said. “We’d have a lot of changes in borders or at least a lot of measures like these on the ballot.”

“It seems to me the opportunity is there next November through the normal process of electing officials,” he said.

Two Cass County commission seats are open on the November 2012 ballot.

Commissioners Scott Wagner and Robyn Sorum, who have each served since 2000, cannot seek re-election due to term limitations.

Commissioner Ken Pawluk will also be on the 2012 ballot, but he can seek re-election if he chooses.

Instead of denying the residents’ petition, commissioners could have put the measure on the November ballot, allowing voters to decide the fate of the annexation issue.

Pleasant Township resident Cherie Mathison said she and her neighbors would have preferred that option, but the commission’s vote “wasn’t totally unexpected.”

“We have to do everything we can possibly do,” Mathison said. “We didn’t feel like we were very well-represented by Cass County.”

Residents south of Fargo-Moorhead have ongoing concerns with the proposed Red River diversion project because they live in an area designated to hold back extra water during times of severe flooding.

“If it comes down to a buyout situation, we need someone to have our back,” Mathison said.

The residents seeking secession to Richland County live in a corner of Cass County along the Red River that’s less than four square miles.

County Auditor Mike Montplaisir said 15 of the area’s 19 adult-aged residents signed the petition in favor of de-annexation from Cass County.

State law only requires the matter to be put to a public vote if the area in question is at least 36 square miles. Otherwise, local governing boards can decide the issue.

Mathison isn’t sure what the group’s next step will be, but said some of her rural neighbors in Pleasant Township are interested in the idea of secession.

“We’ll have to wait and see,” she said.

Also on Monday, Commissioner Wagner was voted as the board’s new chairman.

Vanyo’s two-year term as chairman expired.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541