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Kandiyohi County Board nixes outdoor refrigerators at county parks

WILLMAR -- On a 3-2 vote Tuesday, the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners agreed to ban outdoor refrigerators at campsites in the county's parks.

Commissioners who were concerned about opening up the county to additional liability voted to ban the refrigerators.

Commissioners who wanted to accommodate park customers voted against the ban and instead supported an alternate proposal that would have allowed small refrigerators to be used with an additional $1.50 a day electrical fee.

Given their differing opinions, the commissioners agreed to re-visit the issue again this fall when they meet with park managers.

ElRoy Schuette, a Hutchinson man who said he's been camping at Kandiyohi County Park 1 on Big Kandi Lake for years, said the restrictive policy will chase park users away.

"I think the county will lose an awful lot of campers. We're very disappointed with the policy," said Schuette in a brief interview following the board's vote.

With the current rates and the new restriction, he said Kandiyohi County parks aren't staying competitive with northern Minnesota parks.

The issue first came up last fall during a meeting between the commissioners and park managers who said some campers had large refrigerators and freezers running outside by their campers. Some of those campers kept their RVs there for the entire summer and would let refrigerators run all week long even if they were only there on weekends.

At that time it was believed a state law prohibited outdoor appliances and the county did not need to take any further action, said County Administrator Larry Kleindl.

Learning that the statute deals only with abandoned appliances created some confusion about whether outdoor refrigerators would be allowed, Kleindl said.

He offered two proposals, including banning the appliances or developing a plan to allow small dorm-sized refrigerators up to 3.6 cubic feet that would be required to be grounded with a three-prong plug and be raised off the ground to prevent contact with water. He suggested a small fee be charged for the extra electrical usage.

Kleindl said one park manager wanted to ban refrigerators and another wanted to allow them, but most of the park managers did not express an opinion either way.

The county has received numerous calls from campers who want to use the appliances and are willing to pay an extra fee, said Commissioner Harlan Madsen, who supported allowing small refrigerators.

Gayle and Marvin Jensen, of Montevideo, who attended the meeting to lobby for allowing the appliances, have camped at County Park 1 for a dozen years.

Gayle Jensen told the commissioners that recreational vehicle refrigerators are too small to hold food and beverages and that having an auxiliary refrigerator sitting outside the RV is a valued camping convenience.

"I really think we should just ban them. It's much simpler," said Chairman Dean Shuck. "We sell ice at all the parks anyway."

Commissioner Richard Larson said having unattended refrigerators outside that were used to keep alcohol cold would make it too easy for underage consumption. "I can't buy that," Larson said.

Gayle Jensen said it's just as easy for kids to get into coolers as refrigerators.

Larson asked if having an official policy allowing refrigerators would increase county liability if a camper didn't use the properly grounded cords and "someone gets electrocuted."

Kleindl confirmed the county would be liable.

A vote to allow the appliances failed 2-3, with Commissioners Madsen and Peterson casting yes votes and Commissioners Shuck, Larson and Jim Butterfield voting no.

The vote tally was reversed on the motion to ban refrigerators with Commissioners Shuck, Larson and Butterfield voting to ban the appliances and Commissioners Madsen and Peterson voting no.

In other action:

- Following a public hearing the commissioners approved the partial abandonment of County Ditch 23A, which will assist in the restoration of wetlands in the Grass Lake basin -- a project that aims to improve water quality in Lake storm-water runoff.

- The commissioners approved a resolution to apply for a community block grant from the Department of Employment and Economic Development to provide technical business training for low- to moderate-income entrepreneurs. The program will primarily target Latino immigrants.

- The commissioners granted an easement across county-owned tax-forfeited property on Norway Lake to Dave Westin who owns adjacent land. The easement will allow Westin to put a dock on the lake.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750