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Drain Gets Murky for BC Officials

July 11, 2012

A local contractor will have to wait one more month to find out when he will be paid in a development that had one member of the Barnes County Water Resource District Board calling for the resignation of another.
On Monday, the board moved to rescind a motion from last month’s meeting to pay for work done on “Legal Drain No. 2,” and will decide how to proceed next month based on whether board member Duane Lettenmaier will pay the bills personally or not.

At the June meeting, two outstanding bills from December from Lake View Trucking were presented to the board for work done on the drain in which it seemed Lettenmaier was the sole beneficiary of.

Water board vice president Pat Hurley said that $13,000 worth of work went beyond the scope of the original project, and asked for Lettenmaier’s resignation.

Lettenmaier said Tuesday that the work was done to alleviate problems with County Road 11, currently the only road out of Sanborn when Burlington Northern Santa Fe trains block the only other exits/entrances in the southern section of the city. The road has had three blocked culverts for years and Lettenmaier had received a temporary easement from the Fish and Wildlife Service to install a new culvert.

“The county did get a functioning culvert put in, now they’re going to close the drain and make me pay the bill,” said Lettenmaier.
Board member Jerry Hieb said Monday the board should have paid closer attention to the project.

At the end of the meeting the board decided to pay the contractor, which is the motion that was rescinded on Monday.

Following the June meeting, Hurley met with the Barnes County Commission about removing Lettenmaier from the board.

County Commissioner Phil Leitner said Friday, removing board members is one of the few controls the county has over the water board.
“The county can appoint or remove people from any board. That’s the only thing they can do besides give the water board money or not give the water board money,” Leitner said.

The commissioner said a hearing would have to be held to remove Lettenmaier.

“The commission would hear both sides of the argument and then the commission, after that, would decided what action should be taken.”
County Auditor Ed McGough said the water board would have to formally request a hearing, after which it could be held at a commission meeting or during a special meeting. McGough said Monday afternoon that the agenda for the June 17 meeting is full and he has not seen any hearing requests yet.

Sean Fredericks, legal council for the water board, told the board Monday it would be best for the board not to pay the bills in case they are sued.

“This is purely from a legal perspective, but if the contractor sues the board, then you cross-claim against Duane, and then it gets nasty,” Fredericks told the board. “If you feel like you’re not responsible for it, then you shouldn’t pay it... If you guys decide to take a hard stand and say ‘it wasn’t our project, we didn’t know about it and it wasn’t our responsibility,’ then you don’t pay it, period. And if they want to sue you, they sue you, and then everybody fights about who’s responsible for what.”

Lettenmaier said he would confer with his attorney and have an answer by the next board meeting.

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