MORA, Minn. — Andy and Renee Crisman sat silently Tuesday night as voices rose and tempers flared at the latest meeting of the Hillman Township board to discuss the ongoing fight over the gravel road to the Crisman farm outside this central Minnesota community.
They said nothing at the meeting, and little afterward. But the strain of their long struggle showed outside the township hall, as Andy Crisman briefly broke into tears recounting the support the family has gotten from neighbors in the fight, now in its fifth year.
Emotions swelled after the township board firmly declared it has no intention of accepting a resolution in support of the Crismans that was passed at the township's annual meeting last week.
The resolution is "an apparent attempt to win the case through other means," according to a letter from the township's attorney that was read aloud at the meeting. The road fight is currently the subject of a lawsuit that the Crismans lost, then won, and it is now pending with the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
The family seeks to compel the township to maintain Hornet Street, the road to their home, while the township says that Minnesota law prohibits it from maintaining the road because more than 25 years have passed since Hornet Street was last maintained.
At the meeting, local resident Mike Brooks angrily accused a town official of harassing him because he's showed support for the Crismans.
"I speak up about the Crismans, and I drew a target on my back, obviously," Brooks said after township board Chairman Ryan Martens cut him off for exceeding his time to speak, banging the gavel and declaring Brooks out of order.
Brooks claimed Treasurer Dale Voge trespassed on his land and snooped around his property. Voge apologized, saying he had no intention of disturbing Brooks and was merely dropping off some paperwork Brooks had requested.
Meanwhile, a group of township residents is complaining about a road extension the board authorized last summer in order to provide an alternate access to the Crisman property. In a letter to the board, more than a dozen residents questioned why the township bulldozed trees to widen and extend 297th Avenue, a former cul-de-sac.
The residents claim that the board failed to inform them about the extension before the work was begun and said they are are concerned about the potential for increased traffic through the neighborhood.
The board has told the Crismans that it will pay up to $15,000 to build a driveway from their house to the 297th Avenue extension, a distance of some 500 to 600 feet.
The family has not accepted that offer.