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Sherri Richards, Published November 03 2012

County lines measure about representation at heart

FARGO – Voters in Cass and Richland counties will decide Tuesday if a township in southeast Cass County will swap county lines.

Proponents of the Pleasant Township de-annexation measure say they haven’t been represented by Cass County commissioners in relation to the proposed F-M diversion project.

“There isn’t somebody standing there pounding on the table saying ‘not good enough,’ ” said Greg Hanson, a Pleasant Township resident who helped collect signatures to get the ballot on the measure. “If the city of Fargo makes us less than optimal offers on our properties, who do we go to? The Cass County Commission? The Fargo City Commission? Right now, they have not given any indication that they really give a damn.”

Hanson also said the rural nature of Richland County and the redrawn lines of District 25 make the switch a good match.

The initiated ballot measure requires a simple majority in both counties to pass. The process for a township changing county lines is outlined in the Century Code, Chapter 11-06.

In 2010, Pleasant Township had a population of 468 people, according to the Cass County website. The township includes the city of Oxbow and parts of Horace and Fargo.

All Cass County Commission candidates on Tuesday’s ballot say they oppose the de-annexation measure.

Commissioner Ken Pawluk, who is running unopposed for re-election in commission District 3, said the real issue isn’t representation.

“It’s more the case they’re dissatisfied with the decisions that have been made,” he said.

“Cass has been very involved in Pleasant Township. We’ve spent a lot of money and resources on flood fighting and other issues,” Pawluk added. “The division is the diversion. We’re asking a lot of them. It’s not like anyone is minimizing what their concerns are.”

The Pleasant Township Board has not taken a position on the ballot question, said Chairman Steve Bakke. He didn’t sign the petition, noting it puts him in a “kind of tough spot.”

“We have to work with the county when we have issues come up,” Bakke said. “It doesn’t do much good for me to say, ‘Let’s get out of here.’ ”

There has been little to no campaigning or advertising either for or against the measure.

Harris Bailey, Richland County auditor/administrator, said he hasn’t heard much opposition to the measure. He expects residents in the northern part of the county will likely vote for the measure. Bailey said typically, 7,000 to 8,000 ballots are cast in Richland County during a presidential election.

Cass County Auditor Mike Montplaisir said he’s received a few calls about the measure, including one from a Pleasant Township resident wondering “what’s in it for me?”

The township residents would become residents of Richland County, which has a higher mill levy than Cass County.

“I’m willing to live with sending a couple more bucks to Wahpeton,” if it means better representation, Hanson said.

He stressed the township residents in favor of the de-annexation are not “following orders from the MnDak Upstream Coalition,” a group that has raised concerns about the proposed diversion. He said a “yes” vote on the measure would give Pleasant Township residents peace of mind.

“For the first time in a long time, knowing we actually have a government entity that we can go to … rather than drive to Fargo and talk to a county commissioner, I could just about talk to a tree,” Hanson said.

Pawluk said if the measure fails and the township stays in Cass County, the residents will continue to be constituents.

“All the constituents deserve the attention and respect of all the commissioners,” Pawluk said. “I would argue they have that attention and their respect.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5556