12/26/2007 – News
Volume 124, Number
Christofferson continues fight with health dept. over tires
BY RICHARD PETERSON
Cory Christofferson is frustrated. But he’s also stubborn. And the fact that the North Dakota Supreme Court slapped him down a couple weeks ago, doesn’t intimidate him. "I’m not done yet," he vows.
The Minco Township farmer has been engaged in a long-running fight with the ND State Health Department (SHD) over the used tire fences he’s constructed to contain his sheep. He’s got eight miles of tire fences on his property, some 300,000 tires. They look something like the stone fences used in the British Isles, except that they’re black.
The SHD maintains the tire fences are a fire hazard, provide a breeding place for mosquitoes and rodents and Christofferson hasn’t provided a financial assurance (bond) to insure that the tires will eventually be disposed of properly. The SHD has ruled that what he’s doing is not a beneficial use, but rather an environmental hazard.
Christofferson heaps ridicule on these assertions. "Have you ever tried to start a tire on fire?" he asks. "It’s difficult. It can be done by using flammable materials, but that would be arson. I’m sure not going to burn my own tires." Lightning could start a fire, but Christofferson said the fire wouldn’t amount to much because he could stop the fire with his loader tractor by pushing tires out of the way of the flames. "This isn’t like a huge pile of tires that will burn out of control. My tires are spread out. It’s a completely different situation," he says.
Lightning has never been known to start a prairie fire in Minco Township, so it would be a very rare instance if it did, Christofferson maintains.
He scoffs at the mosquito problem. He says the water in the tires evaporates in four to six days. He’s checked this and so have his neighbors, "but we’re not experts, so what we say doesn’t carry any weight." The mosquito cycle is 14 days, so the water is gone before the cycle can be completed. "Besides, there are lots of sloughs in the area that don’t evaporate and they provide the perfect environment for mosquitoes. Why would the mosquitoes bother with my fences?"
He claims Benson County has 46 to 53 water holding basins per square mile, so there’s plenty of mosquito habitat put in place by nature.
Representatives of the SHD did find one mosquito near Hamar where he had some tire fences. The area is surrounded by a swamp. "One mosquito is all they found and they said that my tires resulted in that single mosquito, adding to the mosquito population," he says with derision.
As far as rodents are concerned, he says they’re not a problem. "You have to have food for rodents to thrive and they can’t eat those tires. Where there’s no food, there are no rodents," he says. Anyway, if rodents did become a problem, there are ways to eliminate them.
He refused to put up a bond to provide for the eventual disposal of the tires. "Why should I have to put up a bond for my fences? Nobody else has to put up a bond for their fences. Nobody else has to put up a bond when they construct a building, even though that building will eventually have to be disposed of. It’s so frustrating!"
Christofferson is well-spoken about the situation and he speaks with passion. This, however, didn’t do him any good before the administrative hearing, which ordered him to remove the tires by October of 2008. He appealed to the district court and then to the supreme court. "They didn’t allow any of my affidavits to be presented because they weren’t presented at the original administrative hearing," he says. He couldn’t afford a lawyer so he defended himself. He didn’t know that the rules called for all documents to be presented at the initial hearing. "It’s a joke.
You’re guilty until you prove yourself innocent," he says. "And they won’t consider the proof I have to offer. I also don’t have the right to trial by jury."
The documents the courts refused to consider are affidavits in support of Christofferson from every Benson County commissioner; State’s Attorney James Wang; every Minco Township supervisor; Benson County emergency manager Gene Hager; road maintenance man Dan Helland, who stated the tires were effective as a snow fence; and 14 neighbors, virtually the entire population of Minco Township. He even got an affidavit from an artist who disputed that the tires are a scenic blight.
He got a permit from Minco Township to use and maintain his existing fences. An affidavit from the SHD claims he was building additional fences. "That’s an out-and-out lie!" Christofferson explodes. The affidavit was signed by Steve Tillotson of the SHD. Tillotson’s affidavit also says Christofferson does not have a permit to transport tires, but Christofferson has a document from the SHD which says his permit is good until 2010.
The SHD apparently received complaints about the fences lowering property values. "I challenge them to produce any written complaints," says Christofferson. "Allen McKay of the district health unit in Devils Lake says he passed on verbal complaints to the State Health Department, but there’s nothing in writing. What’s that worth?
He couldn’t even tell me who was making the complaints. It sure wasn’t any of my neighbors, who are the only ones who would have property values affected," Christofferson said.
The tires have become something of a tourist draw because of their uniqueness. To drive by the farm and see the tire fences, go 3.5 miles north of Warwick and 5.75 miles east. But you don’t have to drive out there to see the fences, you can see them on the Internet by going to www.tiredoutranch.com. There’s lots of stuff to look at, including all the affidavits, permits and other information.
Christofferson’s family has lived in the area since 1907 when his great-grandfather, Charles Christofferson homesteaded on the very farm Cory lives. His grandfather was Elwood Christofferson. His parents are the late Jerry Christofferson and Edna Gleason Christofferson Ellison, who now lives in North Dakota north of Lemmon, SD. His wife is Warwick native Susan (Gailfus) and they have three children, Casey, Carleen and Jessica. Their address is 9275 34th St. NE, Tolna, ND 58380.
Christofferson graduated from Warwick High School in 1974 and attended college for a couple years. Then he farmed the tribal farm to the west a couple years and started farming on his own in 1981.
The idea of using tires for fences came to him in 1994 and he started collecting tires in 1995. Tire dealers needed to get rid of the tires and were glad to pay Christofferson $1 per tire to get rid of them.
With his expenses, it turns out that the fences cost him little or nothing. But once the tire fences were in place, there was virtually no upkeep, unlike wire fences. They worked perfectly for sheep, providing windbreaks. The black tires soaked up warmth from the sun and the sheep made good use of that, especially when they were lambing.
He picked up tires from dealers until 2005 when his suppliers didn’t want to do business with him. They were aware of his battle with the SHD and were wary of getting dragged into the conflict. "Everybody’s scared of the government," Christofferson says.
He’s also got other ideas for the used tires. In 2002 he purchased a tire baler, which makes a block of tires 2.5’x4.5’x5′. He can get up to 100 tires in a bale. The stacked bales make an "awesome" corral that no animal can get out of. He’s thinking of making a shop out of the bales built into a hill, so it would be an earthen building. The tires would make extremely strong walls that could stand the pressure of the dirt against them. He thinks the tires would make a terrific base for a road through swampland. "I’ve got lots of ideas for the tires, but they all take money," laments Christofferson. "And this fight with the State Health Department has drained me financially."
If his luck doesn’t change, as a last resort he could bury the tires on his property, which is an approved disposal method. It would cost him about $25,000. "But why should I be forced to waste a valuable recycled resource?" he asks.
He’s running out of options, but is looking into suing the SHD employees who he says made untrue statements in affidavits. He can’t afford a lawyer, so he’s doing the research himself. He admits it’s a daunting task. "Nobody wants to fight the government because it has unlimited money and will drown you in paperwork," Christofferson concedes. "But I don’t have much other choice. At any rate, I don’t plan to remove one tire."
Cory and Susan Christofferson stand behind their children, Casey, Carleen and Jessica.
Bison rest in a feedlot made of baled used tires.
Sheep are fed in a feedlot near the Christofferson farm home. The tires serve as a fence to keep them confined. The tires also provide an excellent windbreak.
Minnewaukan Elementary School students presented their Christmas concert on December 13. Students in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade participated, with several soloists and small groups. Second graders took part as Christmas trees. Left to right, back row, are Brenn Alberts, Talson Yankton, Malia Brien, Kaylen Nestell, Bryer Erickson, Jeremy Rainbow, George DeMarce and Paul Cavanaugh. Middle row: Larissa Fox, Tifanny Thomas, Skyla Cavanaugh, Nick Greywater, Joran Redfox, Jayden Whitetail and Frank Gourd. Front row: Dylane Goodbird, Junee Wind and LaShae Martin.
Kindergarten Santas are pictured, left to right, back row, Kathleen Shively, Shelby Beecroft, Winona Nestell, and Robyn Martin. Front row: Shannon Beecroft and JulieAnn Santos.
Students of Quarter
The Leeds High School announces its Students of the Quarter for the second quarter of the 2007-2008 school year. Students are selected for this honor based on their positive attitudes and efforts in the classroom, cooperation with all phases of their education and striving toward their highest potential. Left to right, back row, are junior Kayla Bingham, daughter of Jerry and Karen Bingham; sophomore Ashley Manley and freshman Allison Manley, daughters of Jeff and Michelle Manley; and seventh grader Meghan Jorgenson, daughter of Steve and Geri Jorgenson. In the front row are senior Michael Anderson, son of Duane and Lisa Anderson and eighth grader Darren Young, son of Brian and Linda Young.
Gala to be held prior to New Year’s Eve performance of popular Christmas show
The Christmas show at the Opera House in New Rockford, "A Christmas Survival Guide," is off and running. The show is performed every Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. There will be a New Year’s Eve show on Monday, Dec. 31.
"A Christmas Survival Guide" is full of familiar Christmas music, some not-so-familiar music and comedy skits. "The crowds have loved the show so far," says director Deb Belquist. "I think that it has something for everyone and appeals to all ages. It makes one laugh and then the next song touches the heart."
Tickets are still available for all performances and reservations can be made by calling 701-947-2174.
The New Year’s Eve show has a pre-show gala featuring an hors d’oeuvres buffet for an additional fee. Theatre goers do not have to purchase gala tickets to attend the New Year’s Eve production.
Cast members of "A Christmas Survival Guide" are, left to right in the front, Sandy Bekken and Rachel Markestad, Meg Brown in the center, Jay Bauer, upper left and Brian McGraw.
High school concert
The Minnewaukan High School Band and Chorus presented a Christmas concert on December 11. The students performed as a whole group and several small ensembles and solos. The Senior Trio, composed of Alyssa Erickson, Katrece Thompson and Jordan Callahan performed.
Beth Beecroft was a soloist.
Minnewaukan School Administration and Teachers Back row, left to right: Mike Callahan, Travis Risovi, Ron Carlson and Jason Svir.
Fourth row: Myron Jury, Jeff Walen, Andy St. Vincent, Ryan Hanson and David Salisbury.
Third row: Lori Cline, Kathryn Ralston, Diane Straabe, Darlene Thompson, Jean Callahan and Sheryl Svir.
Second row: LaVae Haaland, Jennifer Porter, Mary Feist, Amy Votava, Corinne Risovi and Val Luhman.
Front row: Jasmine Jamison, Ellen Salisbury, Janna Benson, Lyndee Heser, Debbie Dyste and Melissa Benson.
Minnewaukan School Support Staff
Back row, left to right: Neil Westby, Kevin Thompson and Don Mikkelson.
Third row: Rachelle Williams, Laura Every, Marla Kenner, Becky Hestdalen, Brooke Hakanson and Bob Helland.
Second row: Judy Buckmier, Dianne Mikkelson, Karen Chandler, Robyn Thompson, Becky Brandvold and Rose Helland.
Front row: Norma Schmid, Donna Smith, Jackie Duty and Teri Trottier.
Minnewaukan School Board
Left to right, Randy Thompson, Corey Erickson, Laura Every, Terry Yri and Chairman David Ambers.