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Pequot Lakes: Resident accuses council of harassment over yard

A Pequot Lakes resident accused the city council of harassing him for 15 years regarding his yard and what he stores there. The council on Tuesday, Feb. 5, addressed outstanding open enforcement action for John and Barbara Derksen's property on A...

The Pequot Lakes City Council met Tuesday, Feb. 5.
The Pequot Lakes City Council met Tuesday, Feb. 5. Nancy Vogt / Echo Journal

A Pequot Lakes resident accused the city council of harassing him for 15 years regarding his yard and what he stores there.

The council on Tuesday, Feb. 5, addressed outstanding open enforcement action for John and Barbara Derksen's property on Ash Street, specifically the number and location of snowmobiles.

After hearing from John Derksen, the council agreed to give him until Memorial Day for his yard to become compliant with city code.

Derksen said he's a bull's-eye for the council and that his lawyer also said there's nothing Derksen can do to please the council. He said the rules have changed, and zoning specialist Dawn Bittner agreed they have. She said the city keeps following up because the issues are never fully resolved.

When asked why the council doesn't enforce this city code on everyone in town - including yards with campers, boats, four wheelers and snowmobiles - Derksen was told the city will investigate when it receives a specific complaint.

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"You have my blanket complaint," Derksen said.

City Administrator Nancy Malecha said the city needs a list of specific properties and it would respond accordingly. Also, the city can't say who complained about the Derksens' yard.

"Every time I do something, someone's there with a camera. I don't have a yard full of junk," Derksen said, noting he uses his antique snowmobiles for holiday light displays, and another is used as a planter.

In other business Feb. 5, the council:

• Met in closed session for labor negotiations.

• Approved the labor agreement between the city and Teamsters General Local 346 covering the police department unit from Jan. 1, 2019-Dec. 31, 2021.

• Did not appoint Donna Walden to the park commission on a 2-2 vote. Council member Jerry Akerson was absent. Though Walden has a Pequot Lakes address, she lives in Loon Lake Township in Cass County. City code says park commission members must live in Pequot Lakes or own property in the city.

Council member Scott Pederson and Mimi Swanson voted against the appointment. Mayor James Tayloe and council member Sheri Seils voted for it.

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Changing city code is important and must be done with thought, Pederson said, adding Walden doesn't own property or pay taxes in Pequot Lakes, and he said she has strong opinions. Swanson agreed with Pederson.

• Agreed to have Malecha get more information regarding a gas franchise ordinance and gas service franchise fee ordinance. If the council approved a franchise fee ordinance with Northern States Power/Xcel Energy, Minnesota Power and Crow Wing Power would also have to pay it. Charging a $2 per month franchise fee to customers within Pequot Lakes' jurisdiction would generate about $22,000 in revenue per year for the city. The city could charge any amount, or nothing at all as is current practice.

Nancy Vogt is editor of the Pineandlakes Echo Journal, a weekly newspaper that covers eight communities in the Pequot Lakes-Pine River areas - from Nisswa to Hackensack and Pequot Lakes to Crosslake.

She started as editor of the Lake Country Echo in July 2006, and continued in that role when the Lake Country Echo and the Pine River Journal combined in September 2013 to become the Pineandlakes Echo Journal. She worked for the Brainerd Dispatch from 1992-2006 in various roles.

She covers Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Lake Shore and Crosslake city councils, as well as writes feature stories, news stories and personal columns (Vogt's Notes). She also takes photos at community events.

Contact her at nancy.vogt@pineandlakes.com or 218-855-5877 with story ideas or questions. Be sure to leave a voicemail message!
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