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Commission votes on fence issue

By Staff | Apr 3, 2020

Fences constructed within road right-of-ways was a topic of contention between attendees of a Pierce County Commissioners meeting held last Thursday.

Rockie Kukla, Gary Haman, Cory Johnson and David Kraft met with the board to discuss fences in Spring Lake Township.

Commission Chair Dave Migler started discussions by reading a letter from Haman stating that Commissioner Mike Christenson should not be voting on the matter as he put up a new fence in the right of way, and that commissioners should follow the law.

Christenson stated the fence was put up because of flooding and it would be taken down this summer.

Kukla said that per the North Dakota Century Code, public easement is limited to the right to travel and not every obstruction jeopardizes the public’s right to travel.

“And I think there is a simpler, way easier, more common sense approach to fix this problem or issue than building roads and moving fences,” Kukla said.

“As a taxpayer in this county, I don’t think you are spending our money very wisely to build up a minimum maintenance road when there is one a mile away,” Kukla said. “What is one mile away when guys are farming all over the country? They’re not afraid to rent, lend or buy land that are miles apart, but they are saying it is too far to go one mile one way or another. I think we got a lot of other more important issues to spend the money on than build another road a mile down the line.”

Johnson said he had no “ill will” on the matter, however the fences have been a hindrance, especially when they are on both sides of the road.

“I wanted those fences moved for 40 years,” Johnson said, “but whether it gets done now, a couple years or three years, that’s just the way I feel. We have been putting up with those for quite a while.”

Kraft said if the board voted to make the fences legal they would live with it and they would take the fences down if the board voted to make them illegal.

“You as commissioners need to make a ruling on it,” Kraft said. “I don’t want any hard feelings on this deal. I want it set in stone. I don’t want this brought up again. You as commissioners have a job to do today so this does not have to come up again. This is just getting neighbor against neighbor and it is silly.”

Haman cited sections of Chapter 24-06 of the North Dakota Century Code, including prohibition of a “permanent obstruction” from being placed within 33 feet of a section line without written permission from commissioners.

“Why do I have to go 11 miles out of my way because this guy has two section lines blocked?” Haman said. “He has to move his fence; it is the law. I am asking the commissioners to observe the law, and if you don’t this will open up a can of worms.”

Johnson asked if a time period would be put in place.

Commissioner Terry Hoffert said he looked at the fences and felt a timeline should be put in place for all parties to remove the fences.

Pierce County State’s Attorney Galen Mack disputed the notion that the commission was not following the law.

“It has always been our intention to follow the law,” Mack said. “Some folks do not like how the law is written.”

After quoting NDCC Chapter 24-06-28, Mack fences can be allowed with some exceptions.

“If there is good reason and rational reason needed to allow the fences in some shape or formyou have to justify your reasons, and they have to be good, rational reasons, not because you do or don’t like one party or (the) other,” Mack said, adding the basic law is 33 feet.

Commissioner Ashley Berg motioned, and Hoffert seconded, to have the fences removed by Aug. 1. The motion was approved by a 4-1 vote, with Christenson being the sole no vote.

Other actions

– The board voted to send a letter of support for the Main Street Initiative 2020 Partners in Planning Grant to the Rugby Job Development Authority.

– The board voted to approve a request from County Recorder Lori Miron to allow her deputy to work from home. The board would review working from home at its next meeting.

– The board approved a pandemic illness plan that would serve as an addition to the county’s current Emergency Operation plan.

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