The man at the center of a flap over traffic control signs in Princeton Township is facing criminal charges after a confrontation with local leadership turned violent on Thursday night.
Greg Anderson, 60, was booked into jail and charged with fifth-degree assault and disorderly conduct after he struck a township supervisor and another man who were removing traffic signs near the intersection of Hwy. 95 and 107th Avenue. Anderson also was charged with a gross misdemeanor for interfering with a 911 call, according to charges filed Friday in Mille Lacs County Court.
Anderson has been at odds with the township board for the past two summers after officials removed speed limit, yield and other traffic control devices they deemed unnecessary and too costly to maintain.
Some of the signs taken down were along roads that pass Anderson's property. He bought and installed traffic signs himself this spring, but officials removed those, too.
The township last year enacted an ordinance to reduce sign inventory to 110. At the same time, the township adopted a policy "to remove signs along township roads determined to be unnecessary for safety purposes." About 40 signs were taken down.
Anderson called the Mille Lacs County Sheriff's Office about 8:30 p.m. Thursday to report two men taking signs off his property.
At the same time, township supervisor Bill Whitcomb called 911 to report he was assaulted by Anderson, according to a criminal complaint.
Whitcomb and three others were removing signs when Anderson drove his truck onto the back of a trailer to block a skid loader from driving off. Anderson knocked a phone out of Whitcomb's hands as the man called for help and hit him in the chest multiple times, the complaint said.
As he was retrieving the signs, Anderson also rammed a sign into Whitcomb's right thigh and hit the man driving the skid loader in the right shoulder with a sign, the complaint said.
Witnesses confirmed the incident occurred, the complaint said.
Anderson told a deputy that the man in the skid loader tried to back over him as he attempted to retrieve other signs that had been loaded onto a trailer, the complaint said.
Anderson has been outspoken about having the signs re-installed and said driving through the rural Mille Lacs County community became a lot more dangerous after the signs were removed.
State statute prohibits anybody from putting up a traffic-control device that directs traffic movement, whether on public or private property.
In an attempt to comply, Anderson put more replacement signs up this week, affixed with an orange warning that reads "not official."
He has received support from some of his nearest neighbors, who say traffic control is needed along 17th Avenue, where signs have disappeared.
"The signs are needed," Anderson previously told the Star Tribune. "Somebody is going to get killed."
Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768