March 24, 2023 at 11:18 a.m.
Lent goes about business in potential final town meeting ever
Township supervisor Rick Keller was unanimously nominated as the moderator of the meeting. Supervisor Brian Seekon was absent, and about 30 residents of the township attended.
The early part of the meeting was for updates on the township’s pending merger. As reported previously in the Chisago County Press, the northern portion of Lent that is annexing into North Branch has been submitted to an administrative law judge, and signed off on. The southern end of the township that abuts Chisago City has also been approved by both Lent and Chisago City and is submitted to a law judge awaiting approval, so it is nearing completion.
The rest of merging with Stacy is just working out some of the details, according to Keller, but he anticipated that the merger would be complete by summertime.
Chisago County Commissioner Ben Montzka informed the audience of countywide information that was pertinent to Lent. He is representing a majority of Lent Township for the first time with the redistricting that occurred last election cycle.
Keller then went into plans for road rehab and maintenance throughout the township, highlighting projects through 2025. When asked by a resident if those projects would stay on the docket once the township merged with Stacy, Keller stated that it would, saying they wanted to make sure township roads were still being prioritized in the merger.
He did note though that through the annexation, Chisago City is inheriting some of the worst roads in Lent. “Thank goodness for Chisago City,” he said. “They are taking some really bad roads.”
When it came time for the budget, there was a fairly large discrepancy from the past five years that needed to be addressed. Dating back to at least 2020, the planning and zoning portion of the budget had been funded at zero because the supervisors believed the department paid for itself. But, last year, they received a billing of services from recently retired inspector Jack Kramer for nearly $125,000. “They were all viable charges,” Keller said. “But it sent planning and zoning backwards in our budget.”
Residents were upset with charges, feeling they had been held too long.
They asked the board to adopt a policy that states any contractor or service provider should have to submit their billing within a specific timeframe. The board said they would look into it, but that since Kramer’s retirement, the county has actually taken over inspections so a majority of the payment and legwork is not township responsibility.
On the fire fund, there was discussion on how the budget is broken down — Lent pays 70 percent of the fund and Stacy pays 30 percent, which is about how the calls are distributed. Many felt that they were paying more than needed because the township was putting more than the 70 percent in. But, assistant fire chief Scott Olson was on hand and said the department is in need of some updated equipment that was coming up soon, as they have legal limits on how long they can use some of their gear before it’s obsolete.
The voting crowd on hand did agree that even if they were paying a bit more towards the future than Stacy, the firefighters were more than worth it and they were very appreciative to Olson and his staff. They eventually approved the fire fund for a $50,000 raise at $225,000.
Overall, the budget went up for next year, from $1,215,000 to $1,340,000 with the most significant increases coming in the fire fund and $75,000 in the planning and zoning fund.
The gopher bounty, which is always a comedic highlight of the meeting, was unanimously approved without noted adversary Seekon in attendance. Jerry Schroeder, who has made the motion to approve the gopher bounty for over a decade, ceremoniously passed it onto Olson for the last meeting. Schroeder did rise from his seat and second the motion though.
Longtime supervisor Carolyn Cagle then got emotional addressing the crowd as she understood this was very likely the last Lent Town annual meeting. “I just want to thank all the residents here tonight and all the residents that have come out to be active in the decision making process and in their community,” she said as she fought back tears. “It really means a lot.”
But, true to some of their controversial meetings throughout the years, the meeting did end on a bit of a contentious note.
In the public forum, citizen Brandon Monson expressed his displeasure that he is surrounded by two properties that each have three dogs and he said they all bark non-stop throughout the night and he is forced to use noise canceling headphones or turn a fan on high to drown out the noises so he can sleep. He said he had talked to the neighbors to no avail and called law enforcement but according to him, he was told that because there is no ordinance, they couldn’t do anything about it.
Cagle asked that he continue to try to work with his neighbors on it or continue to call the police and there wasn’t much they could do about it.
As Commissioner Montzka was about to address the situation, a resident seated in the back row, as far away from everyone as possible, stood and angrily addressed Monson and the crowd.
“I have lived here my entire life when this here was a farm community and I have seen the evolution of what has happened here,” citizen Mary Price said. “As far as I’m concerned this is a country area. We have dogs, we have cats, we have bears, and if you don’t like it, I don’t care, sell your property and find a nicer quiet place where socialism rules and get the hell out. Let the people who live in the countryside have it even with the neighbor’s barking dogs.”
Her diatribe continued, telling Monson, “I’m tired of people thinking the government has to rule everything for you. I look at the legislature and its creeping here and it sucks. You don’t like it, take a freaking hike to a socialist county or city. I’m sure someone who likes dogs would like the property. Move!”
Keller, for his part, did a good job diffusing the situation and quickly gave the floor to Montzka, who did say there is a county ordinance that if a dog is barking for more than 20 minutes straight, a citation can be issued and that he would help Monson look into the issue. He said he was “surprised” deputies would tell Monson there was nothing that could be done.
That discussion concluded the public comment, which also ended the meeting. There was a quick motion to adjourn and a matching second, concluding what was likely Lent’s last annual meeting.