A year ago, John Atwood replaced Johnnie Olson on the board, and now another incumbent faces declared opposition to re-election. Current chairman Don Pietsch is running for a second term on the board, and he is being challenged by Ed McIntee.
Both are long-time summer residents on Lake Koronis who have moved to Paynesville full time in recent years, but they have some different views about the needs of the township and the running of township government.
Pietsch has been under criticism for months at meetings for issues ranging from the airport proposal to the township's acquisition of County Road 124 (now renamed Old Lake Road), to township spending on equipment and labor, to offering curbside recycling service in the township.
"It's not easy," he said at the township meeting on Monday, Feb. 12, after his support of the airport and the acquisition of Co. Rd. 124 was questioned. "It's not easy to be opposed at every turn."
Pietsch sees the township as growing, especially in residential population. While he welcomes growth, he also says he wants to maintain the rural atmosphere that makes the township special, such as the lakes and other recreational opportunities.
He believes the progressive policies he has supported on the board are needed in the face of the township's growth. "We want to control growth enough so it doesn't have a negative impact on what we cherish," he explained.
McIntee says he is running for the township board because he feels the current board is unresponsive to the wishes of the people. "My philosophy is very simple," he explained. "Our Founding Fathers established a country based on grassroots government."
McIntee complained that the people aren't being heard. "You can't get the board's attention," he said. "My theory is, as an elected official, you must listen to the people."
On controversial proposals, like the airport, McIntee said he would poll the residents of the township, possibly using a survey. "If they want it, that's fine," he said of his position on the airport. "I'm not objecting to it if the people decide."
"You'd better be ready to have a straw vote every time or listen to a few radicals," he counters.
In a representative democracy, Pietsch feels members are elected to use their best judgment. "They certainly have the right to be at meetings and to question our judgment," he said of his vocal critics, "but I believe I'm being elected to use my thoughts and philosophies and to represent all the people."
The election in Paynesville Township will be held on Tuesday, March 13, from noon to 8 p.m. The voting will be done at township office, which is located on the south end of the Koronis Civic Arena.
McIntee was born in Paynesville, and grew up in St. Cloud, where his father, Art, served for 20 years as the county sheriff. His family has had a lake place in Paynesville Township since 1938.
McIntee has worked in capital equipment sales for 36 years His company is based in Deephaven, by Minnetonka. He has lived full time in Paynesville Township since 1995.
McIntee's previous governmental experience includes five years on the planning commission in Deephaven and 15 years on the Hennepin County Draft Board.
McIntee opposed the township's taking over of Co. Rd. 124, which is the road he lives on. He wondered why the township would want the responsibility if the county was doing fine.
"Why don't you leave it alone if the county is going to take care of it?" he asked. "That's a big expense."
"I don't think you'll find more than two or three people who will agree with the decision they made," he continued. "Everyone else objects to it."
Based on his experience from the meetings on Co. Rd. 124, he doesn't think residents are being heard at the township board. "If you've got a board that's going against the people, that's not right," he said.
He advocated surveys for the airport, the acquisition of Co. Rd. 124, and more. Exactly which issues will merit a survey remains to be seen, but he pledges to listen to the people.
Another issue that caused tiffs with the current board is exactly what constitutes an emergency. Board members do have power to order work in an emergency situation, but Pietsch and supervisor Warren Nehring have clashed on several occasions with Atwood over when this applies. Atwood has complained that the members have taken too much responsibility, and superceded the board's authority.
McIntee thinks the board should discuss these matters. "If there's a hole in the road, then they better fix it," he said. "To determine whether it's an emergency or not," he added, "might take three supervisors."
Pietsch, who taught, coached, and worked as an administrator in the Litchfield School District for 38 years, has been a summer resident on Lake Koronis for 35 years and has lived here full time since 1989.
Prior to his service on the township board, he spent eight years on the city council in Litchfield, where he served on the public utilities and streets and parks committees.
His record on the township board derives from his belief that the township is growing and that preparations need to be made for it. "I believe the only way you're prepared is to be progressive," he said.
In the last year, the board, under Pietsch's leadership, has determined that certain roads actually belong to the township and began servicing them. They have extended invitations to other commonly used private roads about ways to split the cost of upgrading them for township takeover.
They have started a curbside recycling service that now collects recyclables from 130 residences. They are working with the county to establish a joint ordinance.
And they have approved a joint annexation agreement with the city, and worked with the city on the airport project and the proposed trail around Lake Koronis. Pietsch said that working together allows these local government entities to accomplish more. "This is our community," he said. "Let's work together."
For the airport, Pietsch wants to explore using interest on EDAP funds to pay for the township's portion of the construction. Nearly $140,000 of interest has been accumulated over the life of the EDAP loans. This money and other reserve funds could pay for the township's portion of the airport cost without selling bonds or levying for funds.
For equal representation in the project, the township needs to pay its equal share in the costs, Pietsch feels.
For Old Lake Road, Pietsch believes the county's plan to merely overlay the road in 2002 was not enough. The county did propose a three-foot shoulder for walking, like is currently in place on Co. Rd. 181, but Pietsch and Nehring opted to take over the road.
The plan is for the road to be widened to at least a 36-foot base, which would allow for two 11-foot driving lanes and a five-foot shoulder for pedestrians on each side. "We did take over that road with the intention that it would be a safe place to walk," he explained.
He believes the township has been provided enough funds by the county to cover the cost, though this has been doubted and debated at recent township meetings.
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