By Ivan Raconteur
WRIGHT COUNTY, MN The Wright County Board changed direction faster than a rodeo star in a barrel race, reversing its controversial Sept. 23 decision to ban horses from Stanley Eddy Park.
Equestrian supporters turned out in force at Tuesday’s Wright County Board meeting, armed with a petition and prepared to convince the commissioners to reconsider the ban.
Only two out of a total of 29 Wright County parks permitted equestrian use, and banning horses in Stanley Eddy park left only one park open to horses.
The board changed its earlier decison without asking for any input from the supporters of equestrian use in the parks.
Parks Administrator Marc Mattice introduced the topic by summarizing the Nov. 10 parks commission meeting.
Mattice said an equestrian group had requested to be placed on the agenda for that meeting, and 34 people were in attendance to support equestrian use in the park. They presented a petition with 558 signatures from people who supported this use, and objected to the fact that the ban had been imposed without the county seeking input from the public.
“They had a good discussion with the parks commission, and, as a result, the parks commission revised the recommendation adopted by the county board in September,” Mattice said.
He added that the commission recommended reopening Stanley Eddy Park to equestrian use.
Commissioner Dick Mattson provided a picture of how controversial the issue had become.
“I received many e-mails, and a few hate e-mails for the first time in my 16 years on the board. I was upset by that. I told people we went by the recommendation of the parks commission,” Mattson said.
The board based its earlier decision on a recommendation from the parks commission, and the decision to close the park to equestrian use was passed on a 3-2 vote, with Mattson and commissioners Elmer Eichelberg and Pat Sawatzke in favor and commissioners Jack Russek and Karla Heeter opposed.
Mattson said Tuesday that the board should continue to support the recommendation of the planning commission, and he didn’t see any reason to discuss the matter any further.
Mattson’s motion to reopen Stanley Eddy Park to equestrian use was approve unanimously.
Two Wright Co. snowplow operators recognized
County Engineer Wayne Fingalson recognized two Wright County snowplow operators for their performance in a recent skills competition.
Tom Waldron finished third, and Bob Erickson finished ninth in the annual Snow Fighters Roadeo in St. Cloud Oct. 1 and 2.
Wright County maintenance personnel competed against 107 other drivers from across the state in the competition.
The event is part of the annual fall maintenance expo that brings city, county, state, and tribal agencies together to sharpen operators’ skills, share information, and help them prepare for the rigorous challenges posed by a Minnesota winter, Fingalson said.
Heeter said one of the first things she did upon being elected county commissioner was to participate in ride-alongs with a sheriff’s deputy and a plow operator.
She said she was amazed at how high-tech the plows are.
“It was fascinating, and they hit far fewer mailboxes than I always thought,” Heeter joked.
“We have a lot of good people in that department, and they don’t get enough recognition,” Russek said.
Odds and ends
In other business, the board:
• set the county’s truth in taxation hearing for Thursday, Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. Sawatzke said in the past, some residents have expressed dissatisfaction with the way notice is given regarding these hearings. He asked if it was true that every property owner in the county receives a letter of notification. Auditor/Treasurer Bob Hiivala confirmed that this is the case. He also said he plans to put an announcement on the county web site.
• set a bid opening Tuesday, Dec. 16 at 10 a.m. for the government center roof replacement project.
• approved a memorandum of understanding between the county, the City of Monticello, and the Young Men’s Christian Association of Metropolitan Minneapolis regarding the Bertram Lake regional park project, under which the county and city will acquire land for the park. The board also approved a state grant agreement for the project.
• accepted an American flag from Lt. Col. John Peterson of the US Marine Corps. The flag flew in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom with the Marine fighter attack squadron 122 Werewolves.
The flag will be placed in the display case in the upper lobby of the government center.
• approved closing the government center at noon Wednesday, Dec. 24. Employees will need to use vacation time.
• cancelled the Tuesday, Dec. 9 board meeting due to five Tuesdays in the month and a conflict with the Association of Minnesota Counties Conference.
• heard from County Coordinator Dick Norman that the county received a $302,755 dividend from the Minnesota Counties Insurance Trust this year.