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A rural Minnesota family whose gravel road was closed made an impassioned plea to Kanabec County officials to halt what they described as a vendetta against them by the Hillman Township board.

Members of the township board "have made it their mission to drive us away," Andy Crisman said Tuesday at a public hearing before the Kanabec County Board of Commissioners. "We have been met with contempt and unfounded doubt. But I refuse to be shamed into submission."

Two years ago, the township informed the Crisman family that Hornet Street, the half-mile gravel road to their home outside Mora, Minn., had officially ceased to exist and that it would no longer plow or maintain the road.

Last year, residents at the township's annual meeting voted overwhelmingly in favor of resuming maintenance of the road, but board members said the vote was improper and they would not abide by it. Now the Crismans are asking the county board to overrule the township's road closure, citing a little-used law that allows a county to order township road maintenance.

Minnesota Statute 163.16 allows residents to file a complaint with their county board if a road has not been properly maintained. If the board finds the complaint has merit, it can order the township to return the road to "a passable condition."

At Tuesday's public hearing on the complaint, supporters of the Crismans wore green shirts. About a half-dozen people spoke on behalf of the family, asking county officials to remedy what they called an injustice.

"This is such a vindictive matter against this family," said Hillman Township resident Katherine Tramm. "This is absolutely ridiculous that it's even come this far. A family shouldn't have to struggle." Tramm said there are two minimum-maintenance roads near her home that are "well taken care of" by the township.

Andy Jauhola, who lives on the Crisman farm, said the township maintains more than 14 miles of gravel roads — including more than 3 miles of roads that nobody lives on.

"The Hillman Township board has spread misinformation in this case," said township resident Jessica Olen. "Hillman Township maintains other roads with no residents or only one resident at the end." The Crisman family has not had mail delivery to their home for nearly two years, she said, and at times gates have been placed across the road.

Rick Martens, one of the three township supervisors, said the township board believes the issue has been settled in the courts. The township currently maintains the first quarter-mile of Hornet Street, but not the last quarter-mile leading to the Crisman home. And that's all it has the authority to do, he said.

The long-running dispute has seesawed through the legal system. The Crismans lost a lawsuit in Kanabec County District Court, but the judge later reversed his ruling after the Crismans offered new information.

Hillman Township appealed, and last year the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the township — but not before criticizing it for "gamesmanship" in favoring longtime neighbors over new residents.

The Crismans asked the Minnesota Supreme Court to take up the case, but the state's highest court declined, exhausting the family's legal remedies.

In his remarks to the county board, Andy Crisman spoke of growing up on a farm in southern Minnesota and later serving in the U.S. Air Force.

"I learned the values of hard work, respect for the land and duty to the community," he said. "Everywhere I served in the military, everywhere I lived, I was met with respect. It deeply saddens me to say, not with the township board of Hillman."

The county board plans to take the complaint under advisement and announce a decision at its next regular meeting on June 6.