Herald JournalHerald Journal, May 23, 2005

The case of the missing manhole covers

By Ryan Gueningsman
Staff Writer

It’s not so much a matter of missing manhole covers, but rather a case of the farmer verses the developer.

In early October of last year, Jon Dammann of rural Lester Prairie removed eight manhole covers, an insert for a manhole cover, and a ditch grate from the Prairie Ridge addition in Lester Prairie, according to a misdemeanor complaint. He rents a field immediately adjacent to the development off of Aster Lane.

Jon told the Herald Journal he was combining and came across the manhole covers, some garbage, and other miscellaneous things in the field.

While Jon said the manhole covers were in the field he was renting, local authorities said the manhole covers were on the developer’s property.

Jon said the next day he hired someone to come in and remove everything and transport it to his residence on Dairy Avenue.

He said this was done in “broad daylight in the mid-morning,” and that construction workers were working in the vicinity when this was done.

“Later on is when the battle came,” Jon said. That afternoon, Jon was combining in a field near his home when a Lester Prairie police officer and two other men arrived to speak with him, Jon said.

A short time later, Jon’s father, Ed Dammann, returned home from working in Glencoe, saw the men speaking in the field, and went out to see what was going on, Ed said.

He said after he approached the men, he gave the Lester Prairie cop a “hard time” right away for being out in the county.

According to Ed, and to police reports, a “heated discussion” took place between the men, and the Lester Prairie officer called for assistance.

An officer from the Glencoe Police Department arrived at the field and, along with the Lester Prairie officer, spoke with Ed. Jon went back to his combining work, according to a police report.

Jon admitted to taking the items, and said he did not intend to return them until he was compensated for damage done to his field.

He agreed to return the manhole covers and other items, which were valued at an estimated cost of just more than $2,700, but only if he could file a complaint for the damage done to his field, according to the complaint.

Jon was able to do this, and filed a damage to property report with a deputy from the McLeod County Sheriff’s Department. Jon told the deputy he believed the damage began in June 2004 when the land that abuts the field began to be developed, and a road (Aster Lane) was put in.

Jon said during this time, the land he rents had been dug up, had tar poured on it, and that a cement curb was placed on it, and estimated the damages to be approximately $1,000, according to the deputy’s report.

Both Dammanns expressed frustration that an officer from the Lester Prairie Police Department was handling the initial call, rather than a deputy.

“It wasn’t their problem, but he made it seem like it was,” Jon said.

The Lester Prairie Police Department was involved in the incident because it was reported to them, and the items reported stolen were believed to have been on property located within the Lester Prairie city limits, said Lester Prairie Police Chief Bob Carlson.

Following the investigation, Jon ended up being charged with one misdemeanor count of theft, and one misdemeanor count of receiving stolen property.

Ed was charged with one misdemeanor count of aid/assist theft, and one count of aid/assist receive stolen property.

All four charges were continued for dismissal, with both men having to pay $75 in court costs and have no same or similar violations. All of the items were returned to the owner the day of the incident.

Jon said he is still considering suing the developer to recover damages to the field he rents. He and his father also wrote letters to the editor to the Herald Journal, the two newspapers in Glencoe, and the newspaper in Hutchinson to “let people know we’re not thieves,” Ed said.

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