Residents launch 2nd petition drive seeking secession from Cass County

PLEASANT TOWNSHIP, N.D. – Unhappy residents here are redoubling their efforts to secede from Cass County, hoping this time to sidestep the approval of the county commission to force a public vote on the plan.

Hickson resident Daniel Rugroden and his neighbors want to join Richland County in part because of their objection to the support Cass County leaders have given the Red River diversion project.

The township residents also believe recent changes to state legislative districts warrant their inclusion into Richland County.

Two months ago, Cass County’s five commissioners denied a previous petition in which 15 Pleasant Township residents sought to put de-annexation into Richland County on the Cass County ballot in the November 2012 election.

Commissioners had the power to deny the petition then because only a small fraction of the township sought to withdraw.

But if residents gather enough signatures asking for the entire township to secede, state law would require the matter be put to a vote, Cass County Auditor Mike Montplaisir said.

As of the 2010 Census, 468 people lived in Pleasant Township, an area of about 39 square miles south of Fargo along the northern border of Richland County. The area in question must be at least 36 square miles to bypass the approval of the county commission to directly force a vote.

State law requires petitions to be signed by at least a majority of qualified voters, based on how many people voted in the most recent gubernatorial election. In 2008, 495 residents voted in Pleasant Township, so based on that, 248 of the township’s residents would need to sign the secession petition to force a countywide vote this year.

In their petition, the residents argue Pleasant Township has more in common with Richland County’s “rural farm environment” than Cass County’s “sprawling metropolitan urban hub.”

Also, state legislators approved new district lines last fall that join Pleasant Township and eastern Richland County in forming District 25. Previously, the township was part of District 22, which is rural Cass County outside of Fargo and West Fargo.

“We figured if we’re part of Richland County for the sake of voting, we should be a part of them officially,” Rugroden said.

Rural residents’ passionate opposition to the F-M diversion’s water storage component also unites the township and the neighboring county.

Residents in both areas stand to be affected to varying degrees by the $1.78 billion project, because of plans to use rural land for as much as 200,000 acre-feet of temporary water storage during severe floods.

Township residents have said they don’t feel Cass County leaders are representing their plight, but county officials said in December, as they declined to put the first secession plan on the ballot, that they should instead express that concern by voting for different county commissioners.

If the residents’ renewed effort succeeds, Montplaisir and other county officials cautioned the township might not like the outcome.

“It would be a big tax increase for those people, and it wouldn’t have any effect on the diversion, really,” Montplaisir said.

Pleasant Township’s governing board is aware of the residents’ petition but has not taken a position on it, Chairman Steve Brakke said.

If you go

  • What: Pleasant Township petition signings
  • When: 5-7 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday
  • Where: Hickson Community Center in Hickson, N.D.