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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Huge turnout for Owens Twp annual meeting

David Colburn
Posted 11/20/23

OWENS TWP- A full slate of business was conducted at the Owens Township town meeting on Nov. 14 prior to the surprise resignations of Town Clerk Shirley Woods and Town Board Chair Wally Refsdal over …

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Huge turnout for Owens Twp annual meeting


OWENS TWP- A full slate of business was conducted at the Owens Township town meeting on Nov. 14 prior to the surprise resignations of Town Clerk Shirley Woods and Town Board Chair Wally Refsdal over the controversy surrounding Derusha Rd. that consumed the latter half of the meeting.
The meeting room at Woods’ country home on Leander Rd. was filled to capacity with about 30 attendees, a fact Woods noted in her opening remarks.
“I thought it was interesting to know that we had ten people last year,” Woods said. “A little bit different tonight, so that’s pretty awesome.”
Woods had good news for the assembly regarding the 2024 budget and levy – no increase will be necessary.
“The supervisors have gone over this and they believe that we can keep the levy at $24,000,” she said. “It’s been at $24,000 for a number of years and we’re able to run the township within that budget,” she said.
Residents registered their approval in a voice vote.
The township retains about $35,000 in its checking account and has reinvested $23,000 from a money market account earning little interest into three certificates of deposit of $15,000, $5,000, and $3,000 earning about five percent interest that should yield approximately $1,300 this next year. Investing in variable sizes of CDs gives the township options to tap the funds if needed while reducing its exposure to possible early withdrawal penalties for doing so.
The group discussed possible donations to area groups. Town supervisor Doyle Svedberg said that the group should set a total amount for giving that would then be allocated to the groups they wished to give to. Woods countered that the township had never done so in the past and had simply dealt with individual requests with a $500 maximum donation per gift.
Marge Hyppa, the Owens Township representative to the Cook Hospital governing board, gave an extensive report on hospital activities. She indicated that the board had decided to raise the overall tax levy for the district by $100,000, the first raise in the levy since 2020. However, the impact on property owners will be minimal due to increased tax capacity within the 2,500-square-mile district, she said. She also noted that the Cook Hospital Auxiliary donated $30,000 to the hospital in 2022 from its thrift shop operations, and that the W.C. Heiam Foundation, which also supports the hospital, raised between $40-50,000 at their annual fundraiser in August.
In other business at the annual meeting, the assembly:
• Heard a report on the Lake Vermilion Trail Project. The township has actively supported the initiative, including donating $1 per resident to the initiative, a total of $244 for 2023.
• Heard a report about fire service through the Cook Fire Department. Svedberg reported that the per capita fee paid to the department for fire protection was raised from $28 to $40 to provide for necessary upgrades to equipment.
• Heard a report from township supervisor Mike Christensen about maintenance performed at the cemetery. He noted that it is the responsibility of families to have crooked stones righted and that the board is working to try to get those issues addressed.
• Heard an update about projects at the Cook airport.
• Heard from two residents about issues with snowplowing and grading on township roads. Woods advised them that those were issues that should be dealt with through the county per the township’s maintenance agreements and encouraged them to contact the Public Works office in Cook with their concerns.
• Approved a $500 donation to Cook Friends of the Parks for a project to renovate the ice rink at the Cook Community Center for use as a pickleball court.
• Declined to donate to the St. Louis County Fair, as it provides little benefit to the township.
• Approved a $500 donation to the Cook Public Library.
• Designated the Cook News-Herald as the official township newspaper.
• Held a 50-minute discussion about the controversy surrounding Derusha Rd., as reported in the Nov. 17 Timberjay, at the end of which Woods presented the resignations for herself and Refsdahl and unilaterally ended the meeting, directing attendees to leave her property.