Archive for Thursday, May 30, 2013

Parties near agreement on fence dispute

May 30, 2013


The Douglas County Commission probably will not have to step in and resolve a fence dispute between two farm families after all.

Commissioners were scheduled to discuss the fence dispute Wednesday night and possibly hand down a ruling. But they agreed to table the matter indefinitely after County Administrator Craig Weinaug said the farmers were close to a settlement of their own.

The dispute was brought to the commission under a state law dating back to the 1860s that gives county commissions the power to resolve such disputes through a process called a "fence viewing."

That requires all three commissioners to go out to the site and physically walk the fence line to determine how much responsibility each party has for maintaining and repairing parts of the fence. There is no charge to the disputing parties for the service. Commissioners are paid $7.50 each for their time.

That's what Commissioners Mike Gaughan, Nancy Thellman and Jim Flory had to do May 15, after several failed attempts by county officials to mediate a settlement.

The fence viewing law can only be used to resolve fence disputes on farm land in unincorporated parts of the county. Weinaug said that in the 21 years he has worked for Douglas County, the Dunn-Barrett dispute was only the second he had seen be appealed to the commission for a fence viewing.

The dispute involved two families who raise cattle on adjoining land just north of Baldwin City along Eisenhower Road.

On one side of the fence, Robin Dunn has cattle on land that she leases from her aunt and uncle, Sally and Raymond Dunn. On the other side, Tim and Susan Barrett have cattle on land they lease from Margaret Counts, who is elderly and no longer farms herself.

At one time, the Barretts had leased both parcels of land and had removed a portion of the fence to give cattle on one side access to a stock pond on the other. However, when Robin Dunn took over the lease, she replaced that part of the fence.

Elsewhere, trees and vegetation have grown along the fence line creating gaps that continued to allow cattle to cross cross back and forth.

The proposed settlement, which Weinaug said had been worked out by an attorney and agreed to verbally but not yet signed, identifies specific segments of the fence and assigns responsibility for maintenance and repair among each of the parties.


someguy 5 years ago

This is why children should not be allowed to farm.

riverdrifter 5 years ago

Also, faux farmer/stockmen, which is precisely what we have here.

Keith 5 years ago

Because it is an interesting look back at the county government's rural foundation.

thinkagain 5 years ago

I like the idea that they turned to government for mediating the dispute rather than litigation. $22.50 over maybe thousands of dollars seems like a good use of common sense.

truebluejb1958 5 years ago


MarcoPogo 5 years ago

I was wondering how this whole thing was going to turn out. At least we avoided generations of bloodshed and bad feelings.

Ron Holzwarth 5 years ago

I grew up in a farming and ranching family in western Kansas, and I never heard of a fence dispute.

But I thought there was going to be trouble one day when, due to my lack of skill in driving the tractor, being rather young, I inadvertently hit quite a few wooden fence posts with the plow and broke them on the fence between my grandparent's and the neighbor's field. They were very old fence posts, possibly from 1900 or so, and broke very easily. Before that happened, I had asked my father to plow around the field for the first round, because I thought I might do that. He responded, "Oh, you can do it."

At dinnertime, I told my grandmother what I had done. She replied, "Don't worry about that for a minute, Ronnie, there's not supposed to be a fence there anyway."

And I never heard a word about it. The fence was built back when cattle were kept there, and long before I broke so much of it, the farmers on both sides had started to use the land for fields instead of pasture land. So, the fence was no longer necessary, and had become somewhat of a nuisance.

nocrybabies 5 years ago

The old phrase "good fences make good neighbors" seems to apply here. I hope they can get along once they have separated themselves by a sturdy fence.

bearded_gnome 5 years ago

there is a lot of wisdom in this old law, common sense, low cost, avoid the lawyers, just look at the thing and walk the line and talk it out.

pretty good way to solve it.

why it's in the LJW, 'cuz it is news, county government actually working.

if only we could get this kinda common sense at the federal government level!

bearded_gnome 5 years ago

or, put it to a vote among the cattle.

but I'd be udderly milking that for puns if I wrote that!

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