Black Hammer Township Chair James Solum presents an award to former supervisor Donald Norgard for 32 years of service.SGH/Moorhead
Black Hammer Township Chair James Solum presents an award to former supervisor Donald Norgard for 32 years of service.

The stone arch bridge in Rooster Valley brought some serious discussions at the Black Hammer Township annual meeting on March 12.

The historic structure also brought two motions from the floor, which residents voted on.

Township resident Jim Wise broached the subject, "I think that leaving the bridge there is the best approach, even if it means condemning that land. It'd be in the interest of the township to keep a historic bridge like that."

The acquisition of approximately half to three-quarters acre would allow two box culverts to be placed alongside the stone arch, and the roadway would pass by on the south (upstream) side. Otherwise, the bridge will need to be removed to place modern box culverts in the dry wash.

"We've approached him (landowner Mark Skustad) about selling the land, and he's not interested," Supervisor Kim Sherburne stated. "I don't know if it's something that we want to do, to try to condemn it."

"Why not?" Nadine Wise asked.

Sherburne replied that some would view a forced sale as an abuse of power.

"This bridge was put on the national register of historic places, and as such, should be left there and not taken down," Wise noted.

"We agree with you," Chairman James Solum stated. "We tried that. We even went down and staked it out. He's just not interested in selling."

"None of us want to rip it down," Sherburne said. "(But) it's a danger. The county has said what the problem is. They put the five-ton weight limit on it."

"The board, on the township level, really doesn't believe in eminent domain even though it's legal," Solum added.

Resident Jim Gray said, "It doesn't matter if that bridge is on a historic list or not, it is historical. It is there for people to see in the future. We have no sense in this country about history. It would really be nice if 50 years from now school kids could come out and take a look at it."

Arguments continued for nearly an hour. Supervisors repeated their willingness to place a bypass around the bridge, but none spoke in favor of a forced land sale. Residents spoke in favor of saving the structure, even if that's what it takes.

Jim Wise made a motion to keep the bridge, but withdrew it so the action could be clarified. That took the form of two separate, but related motions. Nadine Wise read those into the record. They were seconded by Gray.

The first motion was "An order to preserve the historic arch bridge in Rooster Valley."

The second stated, "The board agrees to pursue the purchase of the Skustad property and possible condemnation of said property in order to preserve the historic bridge."

Paper ballots were handed out to township residents. Larry Wiste and Julia Gray were asked to count the votes. The first motion passed 7-4. The second was affirmed 9-2.

Other news from the meeting

Two township elected positions were up for a vote. All 11 ballots were cast for Clayton Johnson who ran unopposed for supervisor and David Skauge who was the sole candidate for treasurer.

For a fifth year in a row, Black Hammer Township supervisors voted to keep their levy at $130,000. Total receipts for 2012 were $153,390. Township expenses totaled $122,999. That left $40,391 more on the income side of the ledger.

The township budgeted $15,000 in the general fund, $101,100 towards road and bridge expenses, $8,000 for rural fire district, $2,100 for the ambulance levy and $3,800 towards solid waste household fees.

Supervisors noted that snow removal expenses (especially during the winter of 2011-12) were lighter than normal, saving the township a tidy sum.

The total for road and bridge spending was just $81,201 in 2012. That not only included snow plowing but grading, gravel, weed control and ditch shaping, tree removal, culverts and miscellaneous items such as signage. Two culverts were replaced last year and several more extended.

Available assets rose again from $290,792 on Dec. 31, 2011, to $332,260 exactly one year later. Eitzen State Bank was kept as the township's official depository.

Salaries for supervisors, the township clerk and treasurer were voted on. All will remain the same as in 2012.

Supervisors are paid $50 per meeting. The clerk is paid $50 per meeting plus $1,000 per year. The treasurer is paid $50 per meeting plus $350.

The township will maintain its current 50/50 split for residents who want chloride applied for dust control. Residents pay 50 percent of the cost and the township picks up 50 percent.

Members voted to donate $1,000 to the Houston County Agriculture Society, which runs the county fair. The Houston County Historic Society will receive a donation of $500.

Pocket gopher bounties for 2013 were also approved. They will remain at $2 per animal. In 2012, $282 was paid for bounties.

The township's Board of Review meeting was set for Friday, April 19, at 1 p.m. in the town hall building.

Finally, Donald Norgard was honored for 32 years of service as a township supervisor. He no longer serves on the board.

The next Black Hammer annual meeting will be held March 11, 2014. Voting will be from 5 to 8 p.m. The meeting follows at 8:15.