WDAY: The News Leader

Published October 04, 2011, 06:58 PM

Rural Clay County residents seek greater representation

Hawley, MN (WDAY TV) - People from the eastern part of Clay County say they're under-presented in the county, and they want changes.

People from the eastern part of Clay County say they're under-presented in the county, and they want changes. A Hawley City Councilman and rural Hawley homeowner are proposing a new map that would change the county's districts. They're asking that their area be one large district instead of two. Right now two commissioners, Jerry Waller and Jon Evert, each represent one half of the eastern side of the county.

The group behind the changes says if district lines were re-drawn, a small-town leader living in the heart of rural Clay County could represent them, and they say they wouldn't be dealing with the problems they are now, some put off for years.

Gary Bergan says he just wants a bigger voice.

Gary Bergan – Lives on CR 31: "It’s not as easy as it sounds. You have to realize that in this area we don't have the votes.”

He's taking us on a tour around the rural Hawley area with City Councilman John Young Jr, pointing out problems on rural roads.

John Young Jr. – Hawley City Councilman: "This can be brought down so the road can be built up and it can be open."

This road used to take you to the western edge of Hawley. For the past 7 years, its been closed off to commuters and emergency responders.

John Young Jr.: "Now they have to go different routes than they could and stuff if this was open."

The biggest concern for community members is County Road 31. Problem spots have been patched up for 10-12 years. But they're still waiting for a permanent resolution.

Gary Bergan: "Everybody in our community drives on it at least to get to town."

Potholes get patched up every summer, but this popular route won't get rehabbed until 2013.

Gary Bergan: "We've been promised for many years, and now we are hoping something will be done."

The shoulder of some parts of County Road 31 are nearly covered with cattails.

Gary Bergan: "It should be taken care of its just like driving through a tunnel and there's ducks that go across the road in the spring with their little ones."

Bergan and Young are dealing with a plethora of problems, but they say the solution is simple: One representative from rural Clay County to address their concerns face to face. Commissioners say if they changed the map from two representatives to one, they would be sorry they lost the extra vote.