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Published April 04 2012

Secession to go on November ballot

PLEASANT TOWNSHIP, N.D. – Rural residents seeking to secede from Cass County have submitted enough petitions to put the matter to a public vote in November.

Residents of Pleasant Township want to join Richland County because they feel their interests would be better represented by those leaders.

A majority of voters in Richland and Cass counties must pass the measure in order for the township to be annexed into Richland County.

The driving force behind the proposed defection is the township residents’ displeasure with Cass County leaders, who have given their support to Red River diversion plans.

Pleasant Township is one of the prime areas south of Fargo-Moorhead where residents would be negatively affected – and potentially displaced – by a proposed water storage area upstream of the diversion.

In February, Hickson resident Daniel Rugroden and his neighbors began collecting the necessary 248 signatures for the petition they hoped would force a county vote.

Last year, Cass County commissioners denied the residents’ initial petition to secede, so residents gathered more signatures this time – enough to circumvent the commission’s approval and go straight to the voters.

As of the 2010 census, 468 people lived in Pleasant Township, an area of about 39 square miles south of Fargo along the northern border of Richland County.

The township includes the town of Oxbow and rural sections of Horace and Fargo, but community leaders in Pleasant Township aren’t taking a stance on the proposed secession.

Pleasant Township Chairman Steve Brakke said the township’s governing board is remaining neutral on the residents’ effort to defect to Richland County.

“As a township, we felt if we have any issues to resolve with Cass County, it’s in our best interest to keep our options open,” Brakke said. “We haven’t taken a position.”

Oxbow city leaders also aren’t taking a stand, Mayor Jim Nyhof said.

Nyhof said he hopes the city’s conflicts over the diversion project can be resolved in other ways.

Voters will likely be asked to give a simple “yes” or “no” vote on whether Pleasant Township should be transferred from Cass County to Richland, said Cass County Auditor Mike Montplaisir.

Richland leaders have expressed their unofficial support for the township residents’ pursuit for representation.

Cass County leaders maintain routine elections are the democratic avenue to resolve the township residents’ frustrations.

Three Cass County Commission seats will also be on the November ballot, two of which are guaranteed to be filled by newcomers because of term limitations on the sitting board members.

Some Cass County officials, such as Montplaisir, have cautioned Pleasant Township residents that they might not like the result if they succeed in their efforts.

Montplaisir said Richland County’s mill levy system would mean a “big tax increase” for township residents, compared to what they’re already taxed in Cass County.

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

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