In tense meeting, Minnesota township maintains road to family's home has ceased to exist

MORA, MINN. Hillman Township supervisors Tuesday night refused to grant residents a petition to retrieve the gravel road that leads to their home in this Kanabec County community.
The meeting was intense with heated exchanges between residents and town board members. An angry resident stormed out of meeting and slammed the doors loudly.

Three residents, including the town clerk, called for Ryan Martens to resign as chairman of the township board. Martens is facing a felony criminal sexual misconduct charge. Martens did not resign.

The board voted 2-0 with one abstention to deny the request for special meetings in which township residents could vote about resuming maintenance on the north end of Hornet Street, home to Renee Crisman and Andy Crisman.

Supervisor Elaine Pierson stated to the Crismans, "I want you to help me, I really do." "I know you are very kind people. How do I violate the law?

Al Nohner, the resident, had had enough.

"You guys all sleep in one bed!" He shouted at it, storming out from the crowded town hall, and smashing the door.

The township board declared the road leading to Crisman's home dead in August. According to records, it had not been maintained in over 40 years. State law states that a road within a township is reverting to the owners of the land that crosses it.

The Crismans presented county records they claimed proved maintenance was performed within the 40 year window. Board members rejected them. They said they had spoken to many residents and former officials who could not recall any maintenance being done.

According to court testimony, Pierson told the Crismans several years ago that the town could maintain the road if it repaired the road themselves. The Crismans spent thousands of dollars on their own to repair the road and make a turnaround for the school buses. After a dispute with a neighbor about marking the property line, the Crismans didn't return the board to seek a resolution. They sued the township instead for maintenance, and lost.

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The township built a gravel road that connected to Crismans 120-acre property. The board members claim they can access their home from that road, but they will need to create a long driveway through a pasture in order to do so.

To support their petition, the Crismans had collected signatures from 67 of 422 township residents. Renee Crisman stated that the outcome was not surprising after the meeting.

She said, "They have the chance to do the right things and I am disappointed that they haven’t done it everytime." "Sixty seven electors stated that they want to have a voice. They not only shut us down but also took [the electors]' voice."

"Why should we support these legal loopholes?" Andy Crisman stated. "Why not find a way do the right thing?"

A number of Hillman residents and those from neighboring towns pleaded with members of the board earlier in the meeting to resolve the matter.

Tom Felger stated, "We have been Hillman Township residents for almost 50 years." "Things are different now." Felger stated that he was like the Crismans when he first moved to the township. It was a young family. We felt welcome by the supervisors."

Felger, a former supervisor of the town, stated that this job should not be one where you are able to wield your power. All the people are called on to our service.

He said, "I'm here not to take sides." "I am questioning how this got to this point. It became something it shouldn’t have."