Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Shawn Jansen
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Heated meeting draws crowd


Residents packed the Windemere Town Hall for a contentious meeting of its board of supervisors Thursday, February 4.

During the public input portion of the meeting, Delores Gockowski asked if the township would conduct an external audit.

Chair Heidi Kroening said, “It is not required of a township of our size or the fact that we have a treasurer and a clerk to do an outside audit.” According to the 2010 census, the population of Windemere Township is reported to be 1,711.

According to the Minnesota Association of Townships (MAT), the 2015 revenue thresholds for audit requirements specify a town with a population over 2,500 and annual revenue of $922,000 or more must have an annual audit. The revenue threshold is much lower for entities with combined treasurer/clerk positions. No financial reports were available on the township’s website, but Treasurer Connie Anderson reported at the meeting a balance of $1,666,349.49 plus a $200,000 certificate of deposit.

Kroening added, “Unless the board would like to spend the money,” and estimated an external audit would cost between $6,000-10,000, and possibly up to $14,000.

According to MAT guidelines, “Boards can also choose to have a CPA or the state auditor’s office come in to audit its books even though it is not required to do so by law.”

Paul Horgan, resident and member of the planning commission, said an external audit should be conducted because of the size of the township’s expense budget. Discussion then followed regarding when supervisors could take a motion from the floor and at which upcoming meeting the issue could be addressed. Kroening pointed out that motions from the floor are only accepted at the annual meeting.

Horgan said of the annual meeting, “As a member of the electorate, you should expect an audit to be called for.”

Road dispute

J.J. Waldhalm brought documentation regarding land he owns that abuts Close Lake Road, which was adopted by the township at its November 2015 meeting.

Waldhalm claimed, “Your adoption is not legal.” As one of the two landowners, he added he was never notified of the action and didn’t agree to it. The road has already been improved to township standards and has been since maintained by the township.

According to Terry Schumann, zoning administrator, county records showed Bryan Ketchmark as the sole property owner and the individual with whom the township worked to adopt the road.

In ongoing discussion, it was revealed the road adoption has not yet officially been recorded with the county because the signatures on the documentation were not notarized.

Kroening told Waldhalm, “We’ll for sure look into it.”

Supervisor Abe Mach moved to deem Close Lake Road a privately owned road which shall not be maintained by the township because it was not recorded and there is a legal dispute and will be researched. The motion was seconded by Young.


The supervisors discussed making donations to the Moose Lake and Pine County historical societies and Moose Lake Community School's Kids Plus program. Earlier in the meeting, Steve Olson spoke on behalf of the Moose Lake Historical Society, thanking the township for its past financial support and seeking another donation.

Supervisor Jake Young noted he would feel better about giving to both Pine County and the Moose Lake historical societies as he, as well as other residents of the township, reside in Pine County.

Mach said, “It’s not our position to be giving donations ...”

Kroening stated at annual meetings, “We allocate money for donations.”

MAT provides guidelines for townships to follow for granting contributions and donations and gives specific examples of those organizations and circumstances which are considered acceptable. Regarding the historical society donations, the guidelines read, “A town board may annually appropriate from its general fund up to 0.02418 percent of its taxable market value to be paid to the county historical society if the society is approved by the state historical society. Minn. Stat. § 138.053.”

As for the youth program donation, the guidelines specify, “A statutory or home rule charter city, county, or town may appropriate money to support the facilities, programs, and services of a public or private, not-for-profit youth center. Minn. Stat. § 471.935.”

The supervisors approved $500 each to the Moose Lake and Pine County historical societies (Kroening and Young for, Mach against) but Kroening’s motion to donate $1,000 to the Kids Plus program died for lack of a second.

Roads equipment contract

Up for discussion was a contract for rental of equipment, requested by the township board and submitted by Mike Buetow, roads supervisor, for use of his personal road equipment when used for the township. But Mach spoke to the expiring 2015 contract, which he claimed he received a copy of only recently and began comparing claims to the contract.

“It’s so ambiguous. There’s some questions that need to be answered. It doesn’t add up,” Mach stated because he saw one rate specified on the contract and a different one on the claims submitted. Mach added, “An audit seems warranted. At face value I see a contract that is violated.” Mach moved to reject the 2016 contract. “Is it service? Is it rental?” The motion died for lack of a second.

Kroening asked, “What’s going to happen in the meantime until another contract is signed?”

A question of whether or not a conflict of interest existed was brought up at a previous meeting and Kroening read a letter from the MAT attorney Eric Hedtke. She read that he stated the contract was confusing, but that a conflict of interest did not exist because Buetow is not a supervisor and therefore does not vote on his contract. A resident from the floor stated a Minnesota statute on conflict of interest, but Kroening said it didn’t apply since Buetow is not a township supervisor.

Mach said, “I’m not talking about a conflict of interest.”

Young said the MAT attorney recommended renting equipment and paying Buetow township wages.

Buetow said, “We can definitely sit down and look at that. I’m sure we can figure it out.” He said he writes everything down.

Kroening said, “We need a contingency added to the resolution.”

Young moved to accept the contract but the motion died for lack of a second.

Kroening moved to table the issue to find out the discrepancies in last year’s contract. The motion passed.

Kroening told Mach, “As a supervisor, you need to talk to your employee and you haven’t yet.” She said, instead, he made the issue public.

In a follow-up phone call Monday, Buetow said he has been the Windemere Township road supervisor for 15 years. Buetow said he and two other employees maintain about 48 miles of roads for the township. As roads supervisor, he determines day-to-day operations, whether it be plowing, grading or graveling roads or ordering parts and repairing equipment. He said they use their own tools because the township doesn’t have many.

He explained his employment contract is through the Local 49 union, while the use of his personal equipment by the township is handled in a separate contract, which he said the township requested and he provided. He said he followed up with each supervisor to see if the language in the contract was adequate.

Buetow said he had texted Mach several times to see if there were any issues with the contract. He said Mach never brought up any questions or concerns.

Buetow stated if he made a mistake, he would be happy to fix it. “I didn’t do anything on purpose,” he said.

In a follow-up phone call with Mach, Mach confirmed Buetow’s attempts to contact him but said he was busy and not feeling well and did not get back to him.

When asked if he had any concerns about the 2016 contract, Mach said, “No, I didn’t. It was very clear cut.”

“The greater issue at hand is the lack of transparency and organization to help us be more transparent,” said Mach.

When asked why he did not speak to Buetow first about his concerns with the 2015 claims and contract before going public, Mach said he was hesitant to speak to Buetow and felt uncomfortable.

Mach explained he had been given the task to get a snapshot for the last two years at the January 18 special meeting held by the township for handling contracts and road maintenance. He said he had received most of the information January 30 and received another piece at the February 4 meeting.

Other business

The township supervisors discussed a complaint forwarded by Pine County Land Services Director Kelly Schroeder. Residents next to cabin owners who rent out their cabins on a weekly or weekend basis are concerned and wondered if there were any ordinances regarding such usage. Kroening stated the township did not have any ordinances to address that issue and could check to see if the county had something regarding such rentals.

Mach said there seemed to be no interest from the schools to provide students with an opportunity to record the township meetings. Horgan said he would be happy to help set up videorecording the meetings for the website for a small cost. Kroening asked him to bring a proposal to the board.

The board approved Doc’s to use the Moose Lake Area (MLA) Hockey Association’s offsite gambling permit for the ice fishing contest to be held and the proceeds of which would benefit MLA hockey.


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