Calls roll in

Mille Lacs County Attorney Joe Walsh addressed the Mille Lacs County Board on the 1855 Reservation boundary signs recently placed by MnDOT.

The Mille Lacs County Board of Commissioners, during their work session on Jan. 19, addressed the recently placed 1855 Mille Lac Band of Ojibwe boundary signs.

Mille Lacs County Administrator Pat Oman stated, “The County has received a lot of calls from people concerned about who they pay taxes to and what the quality of their land will be like now.”

Mille Lacs County Attorney Joe Walsh said that neither MnDOT nor the Governor’s office made any attempt to contact the County. “Presumably the Mille Lacs Band did have communication with the Governor’s office, but we don’t know that,” Walsh added. “But the State is the road authority for state highways and has the right to put out signs.”

One of the concerns brought up was whether the dispute is now over and decided since the boundary signs are now in place. Walsh addressed this issue, stating, “That is not the case. When you put up signs and nobody complains, in a certain number of ways, it becomes law (referring to the doctrine of adverse possession and practical location). We don’t have to worry about that because there is a current lawsuit. But if the lawsuit goes away, we’ll have to have that conversation. Then we would have to make sure Mille Lacs County rights are not lost.”

Mille Lacs County Commissioner Dave Oslin, whose district includes the 1855 Reservation area, said, “I would like a clarification from MnDOT when they said they ‘don’t anticipate major changes at this time.’ It would be nice if that statement were true. When it comes to the sign itself, what it’s stating is fairly accurate but not the Paul Harvey rest of the story.”

Walsh stated, “When at a meeting for MnDOT, early on they said they were going to acknowledge the 61,000 acre boundaries, and now we aren’t invited to the meetings anymore. We are no longer welcome to have communications with the State government … even a courtesy heads up would have been appreciated. Mille Lacs county didn’t get any of that. What we did get were angry phone calls about why this happened.”

Commissioner Phil Petersen said, “The negative is that this will damage property values big time. Whether they live on trust land or sovereign nation land, people will think they don’t want to live on the Reservation.”

Oslin added, “The good news is that it’s in the courts, and it’s moving forward.” He added he received well over 100 phone calls. “We should have gotten a heads up (from the State).”

Oman added, “The one thing we’re getting calls on is people thinking about building a house wondering about permits and zoning, and it’s creating confusion about development in our county. I’m sure there was a strategy about what was done and collaboration with the Band. We are an extension of State government. They should be speaking with us, and they’re not. This is very telling about who’s running the show. Communication is all we’re really asking for.”

Commissioner Genny Reynolds asked if they should be forwarding these concerns on to the State.

Consensus among the board members was made to send the State a letter asking why there was no communication made with the County.

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