It’s maintenance costs versus public safety by beating road signs in Princeton Township

A traffic sign dispute is brewing in Princeton Township, where some residents are taking matters into their own hands after local leaders removed dozens of speed limits and other traffic control devices deemed unnecessary and too expensive to maintain.

Greg Anderson, a township resident and former township board member, said the move made driving in the rural community of Mille Lacs County much more dangerous. After the township board members in 2020 removed the speed limit signs, Anderson used his own money to buy replacement signs – only to have them removed as well.

“Why endanger security by shooting them down?” Anderson said. “They were real traffic control signs. They weren’t frivolous. They were in mint condition, the best signs you could buy. Ridiculous.”

The drama began late last summer when Anderson noticed signs along 17th Avenue were gone.

At first he thought they had been stolen “by heckling children”. Then he got calls from other residents who noticed that the signs on their roads were also gone.

“It wasn’t just our route,” he said, pointing to a map he created showing at least 40 places where the signs had been removed.

In June 2020, the city council adopted an ordinance governing the replacement and inventory of signs. Thousand Lakes County had installed several traffic control signs around 2010 in accordance with Minnesota Department of Transportation guidelines on sign replacement.

The Township of Princeton had no official policy governing the replacement of signs before the order was enacted, said Jason Hill, the township lawyer. MnDOT has no jurisdiction over signs that are not on national roads.

The goal behind the ordinance, Hill said, was to move from a system that replaced panels when they were worn out to a fixed schedule, to ensure that the panels met state requirements, met manufacturers’ specifications and reduce costs for taxpayers.

The ordinance resolved to reduce the township’s sign inventory to 110. At the same time, the township adopted a policy “to remove signs along township roads deemed unnecessary for safety reasons.”

The signs included speed limit, stop and surrender signs, as well as signs warning drivers when approaching T-intersections and areas frequented by many pedestrians on portions of township roads that do not intersect. not national or county roads.

“The signs that were subsequently removed were removed as per policy,” Hill said.

Calls to two board members seeking comment were not returned. A third member referred the appeals to Hill.

Anderson said he offered to buy the original batch of panels that had been removed, but township leaders refused.

The plot thickened this spring when Anderson spent $ 370 to purchase eight signs and put them up on the roads past the property he owns. And once again, the commune won them. Sheriff’s assistants were present when the township removed the new signs “to observe and keep the peace,” said Mille Lacs County District Attorney Joe Walsh.

It only added another layer of tension to the feud. Anderson said the signs he purchased were affixed to his property – something the township disputes – and he could take legal action against the township for taking personal property.

But by putting up the signs, Anderson may have broken the law. The state statue prohibits anyone from setting up a traffic control device that directs the movement of traffic, whether on public or private property. The law also stipulates that these signs are “declared a public nuisance” and that the competent authority on the road can remove them without notice.

“As you can imagine, in order to ensure the safety of the traveling public, the city and other state road authorities must have the power to remove misplaced traffic control devices that could create confusion. and security risks, ”Hill said. .

Township officials returned Anderson’s signs, and he has now stored them in a barn.

Walsh, the county attorney, said his office had reviewed two cases related to the sign removal incidents, but had no plans to press charges.

Anderson said he remained steadfast in his quest to restore the signs, especially after recently seeing a woman driving fast along 17th Avenue, where the speed limit signs had been removed.

At another intersection, he said a UPS truck almost crashed. “The signs are necessary,” he said. “Someone is going to be killed.

Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768

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