Monday, February 2, 2009

Judge Rules in Favor of Plaintiffs Ted Keller and Leo Straley

The following article was published in the Foster County Independent on February 2, 2008. Since their newspaper is not online, I've copied it here for the convenience of Internet readers.

Judge Rule Favors Plaintiff--Court Case sought Copies of Letters in Support of Dairy by Leasa A. Lura for the Foster County Independent

In a hearing of Ted Keller and Leo Straley vs. Foster County Commission, Judge Greenwood ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, but the damages they were seeking will not be paid.

During the hearing on Wednesday, January 28, attorney for the commission, Scott Porsberg attended the hearing by phone.

The hearing was for a summary judgment filed by Keller and Straley with a motion for summary judgment also filed by the commission.

Keller began by telling Judge Greenwood that he sent two letters to the county commission on June 9, 2008, requesting copies of the 346 letters that commissioner Jim Carr received from supporters of the Van Bedaf dairy.

After receiving no response, Keller said he sent another request on August 19, 2008, accompanied by an$86 certified check for the copies.

Keller stated that he still hasn't received copies of the letters and quoted the attorney general as saying that every person has the right to access records of government entities.

Porsberg said that he didn't receive copies of the letters because the request wasn't sent to the acting attorney.

He also said that Ellen Sherman sent a request to him for copies of the letters and received those copies.

Porsberg said he assumed that Sherman was acting as an agent for Keller and Straley and assumed that they would receive the letters from Sherman. Keller and Straley both testified that they had not received the letters from Sherman.

After a review of the case and the testimonies, Judge Greenwood said that Porsberg had no reason to believe that Sherman was acting as an agent of Keller and Straley.

Judge Greenwood ultimately denied the commission's motion for summary judgment and granted Keller and Straley's motion for summary judgment.

He said that the commission must provide copies of the letters to Keller and Straley in a reasonable amount of time.

Keller and Straley were also seeking at least $1,000 in damages, but Judge Greenwood denied that request, except for the filing fees to the county amounting to $80.

Judge Greenwood also said that he believes that the violation was not intentional.

Porn Shops Next to Churches and Homes?!

I just received an e-mail from someone who is very concerned about a bill that is being sponsored by Rep. Wrangham with the backing of Farm Bureau, LAND, and ND Policy Council. This bill would change zoning as we know it.

The goal of the above mentioned groups is to leave it up to the landowner to decide what is the best use for his land with no consideration for neighbors' quality of life or property values. This would potentially do away with any applications and public hearings for land uses such as landfills, concentrated animal feed operations, and other land uses that would bring down property values and harm the environment.

The following is an excerpt from the e-mail which I received:

"Today I talked to some of the lobbyists at the capitol about HB 1522. Most of them do not like the bill, but they seem to think that since there is only one sponsor it will probably not pass. This is dangerous thinking - I have seen this backfire in the past. Because people thought a bill would not pass and did not stand up to oppose the bill, the bill passed with no votes against it.

I am sure that Farm Bureau, LAND and ND Policy Council will have people to testify for the bill. Therefore, it is important that there is major opposition to this bill.

As one lobbyist (for the Catholic church) pointed out to me today - if it is left up to the landowner to decide what will make the most money on his piece of land, what is to keep Adult entertainment stores from popping up next door to schools or churches? How will we keep landfills and CAFOs from being built next to nursing homes, hospitals, churches, or subdivisions?

Remember that the Health Department does the EPA regulation stuff but does not deal with neighbor well-being or property values.

Comprehensive planning and zoning was started because industrial buildings were being built right next to apartments, neighborhoods and schools, causing health problems for children. This unregulated building of industry caused property values to fall, where one landowner could take money out the neighbor's pocket. Lawmakers decided that the health and welfare of the children and citizens was important and needed to be protected.They also decided that all landowners needed to have their property values protected.

Now Farm Bureau and ND Policy Council want to move backwards and make it possible for neighborhood, urban and rural, to become unhealthy again so that greedy landowners do not have to be concerned about their neighbors."

What do you think about this new bill? Would you like your neighbor to have no restrictions whatsoever on the use of his/her land?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Volunteering Is Prevalent in Carrington

"Down in their hearts, wise men know this truth: the only way to help yourself is to help others." -Elbert Hubbard, American Writer & Publisher

I was just reading a recent article in the Foster County Independent about the Carrington Health Center Auxiliary, the fact that they had honored their volunteers for 2008. I talked to Dorothy Fenske, who coordinates the volunteers at CHC, and discovered that she had a long list of people who help out all around the Carrington community.

Virginia March received Volunteer of the Year Award from CHC Auxiliary's Dorothy Fenske.

The two members who received top honors for 2008 from the CHC Auxiliary were Virginia March and Illa Zink. Not only have these two ladies volunteered countless hours at the Carrington Health Center, but they have also dedicated much time to their churches and other organizations in the community.

Illa Zink also received the Volunteer of the Year award - honoring her exceptional service to the Auxiliary and the Carrington community.

Take a look at the CHC Auxiliary web site, and you will see many other familiar faces, people who constantly spend time nurturing this community and endeavoring to make it a better place.All around our community, you can see people helping others in a true spirit of giving - not expecting anything in return, other than perhaps the pleasant feeling of doing a good deed. If you know someone who you think should be honored for their volunteer work and their helping others, this might be a good place to mention their names and give them a public pat on the back. Just click on the comment section below, and enter your thoughts.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Judgment Goes Against Foster County in Favor of Ted Keller and Leo Straley

Commissioners Meeting: March 18th, 2008
Justice prevailed today, January 28, 2009, in the Foster County Courtroom for Ted Keller and Leo Straley. Presiding Judge Greenwood granted their summary judgment against Foster County. He ordered that Foster County should provide them with copies of the 346 letters that Commissioner Carr said that he had from the community in support of the Van Bedaf mega-dairy locating near Carrington.

In March, 2008, when the Carrington community was debating the issue of allowing the Van Bedaf mega-dairy to locate so near Carrington, Commissioner Carr stated that he had 346 personal letters from businesses and members of the community in support of the dairy being established here. He used his supposed possession of these letters to sway the other commissioners to vote in favor of accepting the Van Bedaf application for a permit to operate 2 1/2 miles from town. Nearby established families and farms, as well as many Carrington residents, were worried about the smell and health hazards of a 20 million gallon manure lagoon being so close to them.

Interestingly enough, when Ted Keller and Leo Straley asked to see the 346 letters, the County refused access to them... even though they were part of a public record used to influence the other commissioners and the community. Foster County had already been sanctioned by the Attorney General of North Dakota for not providing public information in a timely manner, so as a last resort, Keller and Straley decided to sue the County in order to get access to the letters.

It has taken the plaintiffs eight months to get information that should have been provided to them immediately. Because of the refusal and delay in producing the 346 letters, Keller, Straley and others have begun to question whether or not they truly exist. Or, if the letters do exist, are they well-writtten, well-thought-out letters like the ones which were written in opposition to the location of the mega-dairy. Or, as someone suggested, are they simply a form letter that customers signed when they bought gas/supplies from Commissioner Carr.

When Ted Keller and Leo Straley receive the letters from Foster County, they have agreed to publish them on CarringtonNews.Com so the community can see the number and quality. Judge Greenwood also ordered Foster County to reimburse the plaintiffs for the filing fee which they had to provide in order to sue the County.

Another court date was set for March 17th in order to hear a complaint that the Foster County Commissioners met in an unlawful, unannounced session to decide issues regarding the Van Bedaf mega-dairy.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

$1 Billion State Surplus: What To Do with It!

How many of you (Foster County/Carrington citizens) keep up with our North Dakota State legislature? Take a look at a recent article in the Jamestown Sun, highlighting the debate that is currently going on about our state's $1 billion surplus.

The Jamestown Sun Published Tuesday, January 27, 2009:
BISMARCK —"The surest, fairest way to give the state’s surplus back to the taxpayers is an income tax rebate sent out as soon as possible, a Fargo legislator said. But other legislators said at a hearing Monday that the voters sent a message in November that they don’t want an income tax cut." More...
Rep. Rick Berg, R-Fargo, has introduced House Bill 1324, which would return $100 million of the estimated $1 billion state surplus via tax rebates based on taxpayers’ 2008 state income tax returns (2007 income). However, Rep. Lonnie Winrich, D-Grand Forks, worries that taxpayers will spend the money paying down debt instead of spending it on things that will stimulate the economy.

Seeing as how North Dakota tax payers (you and me) helped create this $1 billion surplus, wouldn't it be nice if the legislature asked us our opinions on the subject? Perhaps some taxpayers have been asked, but have any of you been contacted personally, asking for your input? Have you written, called, e-mailed any state public officials to state your views regarding this surplus? Often we are so busy with our immediate personal lives that we don't involve ourselves with "government."

But, just think about it....

If the state has such a large surplus, doesn't that mean that we were immensely overcharged with our taxes. When we get overcharged in other areas of life, like at any business establishment, isn't it the normal consequence that we get the overcharged amount back? Agreeably, the state should keep some money in reserve, but shouldn't the rest be returned to the taxpayers.

If you want to voice your opinion regarding this issue, contact:

District 29 (Foster County - Carrington Representative) Republican
Representative Chet Pollert - Address: 560 South Sixth Street, Carrington, ND 58421-2317
Telephone: 701-652-2494 - E-mail:

District 29 Senator (Representing Foster County) Republican
Senator Terry M. Wanzek - Address: 900 Seventh Avenue SW, Jamestown, ND 58401-4542
Telephone: 701-251-6113 - E-mail:

Or, choose from a list of contacts at the North Dakota State Government website .

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Book Recommendation: A History of Foster County - North Dakota

Foster County Courthouse - Carrington, ND

I just want to remind everyone that there is a wonderful book, A History of Foster County - North Dakota, available at the Foster County Courthouse, as well as at the museum in Carrington.

Being a relative newcomer to the area, I only discovered it this last year, after which I had the pleasure of meeting Lucile Zink, one of the major compilers of the extensive research that went into creating this book.

For those of you who are interested in the history of Foster County and Carrington, it is a "must read!" This book is filed with fascinating details, stories, and pictures of Foster County's past. I especially liked the pictures of Carrington in its heyday and was amazed to learn that a huge lake, Lake Willow, existed along 1st Street North, where my house now stands.

All of the people who were involved in creating A History of Foster County for the 1983 Centennial should be commended for the hard work and dedication that went into making it. I'm sure many of you already have copies and have studied the book, but for those of you who missed out, it will take just a short trip to the courthouse or the museum to pick up a copy.

Can you believe you can get a copy for only $5.00?!

It's quite a buy with an attractive green and gold hardback cover and over 600 pages of interesting information and old photos of the area. It would make a great gift for friends and relatives, as well as support our local Historical Society.

Best wishes, and have a great read!
Note: This is a letter which I wrote earlier last year, which was published in the Foster County Independent as well as on CarringtonNews.Com.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

How Can We Save Our Downtown Buildings?

Downtown Carrington, North Dakota - Main Street

In the January 12th Carrington City Council meeting, Lucinda Grandalen (Economic Development Director), informed the council that the JDA wants to purchase and DEMOLISH two downtown buildings - the Mel's Diner building for $6,600 and the Carrington Floral building for $5,000. According to Mayor Frye, the JDA has budgeted $50,000 for this project.

It looks like our historical downtown buildings are going to disappear one by one if Carrington residents don't take an interest and do something about it. Besides the fact that these buildings add character to our downtown, just think about what downtown Carrington will look like with big gaping holes between the buildings that remain!

It's sad to think that two great old buildings are going to be destroyed, simply because of lack of interest and/or ideas of how to make them beneficial to our community. Why can't the JDA use their budgeted $50,000 to support some constructive ideas toward saving these buildings?

Creative thinkers, please help!!! What can be done to save downtown Carrington?

How about an artists' co-op? There are certainly a lot of great artists and craftspeople in this area. The Carrington Armory was absolutely filled with attractive arts and crafts at the local Crafts Fair last November. A building downtown with a storefront like the old Floral building would be a great place to display and sell local artwork. Also, it would draw not only local residents, but tourists to the downtown area, as well as provide income for local artisans.

The Historical Society has done a wonderful job or restoring and keeping up the Putnam House, and our community has been very supportive of their special events and activities. Could the Historical Society turn one of these old buildings into a downtown museum - an extension of the Foster County Museum which is already in existence? The current museum is chock-full of more than enough fascinating artifacts to fill up another building. Also, a downtown museum would be another tourist attraction to the Main Street area.

I'm sure there are lots of great ideas out there! Please use the comment section below to share them.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Foster County Commissioners Vote To Not Allow Carrington Residents on Planning and Zoning Board. Is That Legal?

Foster County Commissioners: LeRoy Hart - Jim Carr - Dwayne Erickson

The Foster County Independent finally published the official minutes for the November 4th and 18th, 2008, Foster County Commissioners meeting at the end of December.

One wonders why it takes so long for the county commissioners to publish their minutes for public perusal. Could it possibly be that they want to keep Carrington citizens in the dark as long as possible regarding some of their group's decisions?

For instance, how many Carrington citizens know that they will no longer be considered for appointments to the Foster County Planning and Zoning Commission? That's right! To quote from the commissioners' official minutes published in the Independent: "Future appointments to the Planning and Zoning Commission were considered. Chairman proposed that the county zoning commission should be made up of rural county residents. Hart moved to adopt the policy that Planning and Zoning Commissioners must be rural residents, and second by Carr. Upon roll call vote: Hart voted "yes," Carr voted "yes," and Erickson voted "yes. Motion carried and policy adopted."

These three men seemingly do not want any input from Carrington residents (the largest population in Foster County) when it comes to making decisions for the county. Doesn't it seem strange that they voted to not have ANY city or town's people on the Planning and Zoning Commission? Why aren't they interested in input from city residents - other than Mayor Fry?

Shouldn't the Foster County Commissioners be looking for a balanced group of members for their Planning and Zoning Commission - both city and rural county residents? Shouldn't they be listening to the county as a whole, not just one aspect of it?

Where is this policy leading? Does this mean that the current city and town residents on the Planning and Zoning Commission will be requested to give up their appointments? Perhaps our three county commissioners weren't happy with some P&Z members' vocal opposition to having the Van Bedaf mega-dairy locate so close to Carrington. Is this their way of getting rid of city members who didn't go along with their ideas?

It will be interesting to see where Mr. Hart, Mr. Carr, and Mr. Erickson lead us next, particularly if they don't want any city or town input from Carrington citizens in their decision making.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Snow Pictures: Carrington, ND




It's fun to drive around Carrington, taking pictures of the infinitely changing aspects of snow. Take a look at some of my favorite snow photos.

Architecturally speaking, the Foster County Courthouse is the most beautiful building in Carrington. The following description is taken from A History of Foster County, compiled by the Foster County History Book Committee in cooperation with the Foster County Commission and in conjunction wit the Foster County Centennial - 1983:

"The Foster County Courthouse is one of the thirteen Buechner and Orth courthouses in North Dakota named to the National Register of Historic Places by the Secretary of the Interior in 1980. The building, both inside and out, has remained virtually unchanged during its 70 years of service to the citizens of the county. Its stark outlines are now obscured and softened by trees which reach as high as the pediment over the front entrance. It no longer gives the impression of standing isolated on the flat prairies, residences have been built as close as across the street on two sides. The exterior brick and stonework show only a minimum of weathering and wear, and there are no obvious cracks or uneven settling of the structure. The copper sheathing of the dome, now covered with aluminum paint, still shines from the distance on sunny days." More...

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Snow / Winter Stories

Up and down the streets of Carrington, you can see mountains of snow rising as high as some of the buildings. Having only lived in Carrington for four years, I'm not used to such an abundance of the slippery cold white stuff! It has been quite an adjustment, learning to live safely with a minus-fifty-degree chill factor at times. I've taken the advice of a columnist in the Jamestown Sun who suggested that everyone should have a survival kit tucked away in every vehicle. In fact, I quoted his list on CarringtonNews.Com and have tried to gather and store many of his suggested items in all our vehicles.

I thought it would be interesting to share some cold weather stories that have happened to friends and relatives around Carrington. As for me, I'll never forget the first time that I saw sun dogs! No one had ever told me about a natural phenomenon where you could see three suns in the sky at once. I was so astonished that I practically ran off the road, momentarily thinking that the end of the world must be near! No one along the Carrington streets seemed to be reacting to the images of three suns, though, so I decided not to be frightened and took some good pictures of the event instead.

Later I learned from Wikipedia that "a sun dog or sundog (scientific name parhelion, plural parhelia, for "beside the sun") is a common bright circular spot on a solar halo. It is an atmospheric optical phenomenon primarily associated with the reflection or refraction of sunlight by small ice crystals making up cirrus or cirrostratus clouds. Often, two sun dogs can be seen (one on each side of the sun) simultaneously." In fact, there are many instances of sun dogs mentioned throughout recorded history, as far back as ancient Egypt and Greece, where they are described with awe.
Note: The sun dog picture was taken at the intersection of Highways 200 and 281.
Please feel free to post comments and/or stories about Carrington winters.