When I logged onto the Morrison County Record today I was surprised to see today’s headline citing, among other things,  allegations of corruption.

Perhaps I wrote that statement too hastily, corruption would not surprise me, my surprise is in seeing someone calling them out. I do not make these statements because I have some inside information as to the legitimacy of the allegations made,  I can neither validate or invalidate Wheeler’s claims.

What I do know is the experiences I’ve had since I relocated to Little Falls about 4 years ago. I confess that I have found those in the positions of authority or ownership to be accustom to operating in manner that I can only characterize as imperialistic. It has appeared to me that many businesses are accustom to writing their own rules and even more accustom to dealing with individuals who are either unfamiliar with the laws or unwilling to stand up to them.

One of my very early experiences was with a service station, whose name escapes me  (Suffice it to say, they failed to earn my business). Either way, my son and I brought his car in for a repair estimate. After a day or so the station owner called and informed us that the vehicle would require extensive and expensive repair work.  My son and I elected to have the work done at a less expensive service station. Upon picking up the vehicle the station owner handed my son a bill for $80.00. He explained that we would have to pay extra for the estimate because we were having the work done at a differnt station…not that he mention what the fee would be for the estimate in the first place.

Whether the station owner knew it or not is immaterial, the station owner should have known that in order for a station to charge for an estimate they must state the dollar amount in advance of looking at the car. Having a flat fee stated ahead of time prevents stations from doing as this man did, which was to charge customers on an entirely arbitrary basis.

The second Little Falls service station we tried repaired a belt on my youngest sons car. In this instance the station didn’t complete the work by failing to tighten down the replaced belt…of course, the belt flew off as my son drove back to Minneapolis. Little Falls station #2 also failed to earn our business. as well.  Negligence is different than deliberately ignoring laws, that having been said I am glad it wasn’t a tire that they forgot to tighten down rather than a belt.

On a third occasion my son’s car broke down near Pierz. My son dropped his car off at Red’s Auto. After looking the car over carefully Red’s Auto was unable to recreate the problem my son described. The station reported that they took the car out numerous times, under a variety of circumstances and found no problems with the vehicle. My son went into the station and asked what he owed them for looking his car over. The station workers said, “we didn’t do anything.” My son said “yes, I realize that but what do I owe you for checking it over?” He replied, “…nothing.”

Lets face it Red’s Auto could have charged us something, and we would have been glad to pay a reasonable amount for looking the car over. They could have even said they fixed something and we would have never known the difference. Red’s Auto in Pierz was honest and they delivered quality service, suffice it to say, they’ve done every repair on every car ever since …and we refer our friends to them.

The list of incidents of business’ ignoring state laws wasn’t confined to one instance with an auto repairs shop. Shortly after renting a house from a local real estate agent it soon became apparent that the service I received renting near Minneapolis wasn’t going to be the same in Little Falls. It has to be said at this point that I was not interested in buying a home because I did want the hassle of keeping up on repairs. But so far, renting in Little Falls has meant that almost nothing gets repaired… except when the toilet wouldn’t work. We spent days with no toilet at all because the owner told the plumber that there was no rush! In another emergency he didn’t hire licensed professionals. This oversight was of gravest concern because gas was leaking into the house.

From the day we moved into the house we were told that the smell in the basement was sewer gas, a problem we were told could be cured by a douse of water down the drain in the basement. Weeks and buckets of water later, the smell remained stronger than ever. When the previous renter returned to the house to pick up items in the garage she said she used to place dryer sheets all over the basement to try and cover the odor. Her statement indicated that the smell was present in the house for an extended period prior to our residence.  Months later, the smell grew  stronger and I was certain the gas smell was not connected to the sewer.

Worried, I rang Minnegasco who dispatched a technician with gear, including a devise that measured gas leaks. The leaks were so numerous that gas to house was shut down altogether. Minnegasco told me to contact my landlord which I did. An hour later the brother of a fellow realtor arrived at my house to inspect the leaking pipes…armed with a spray bottle containing nothing more than soapy water. The theory was that the soapy water would bubble if there was a gas leak. The unlicensed man sprayed down the pipes and told me that there were no leaks…he assured me that Minnegasco was wrong.

Was he trying to tell me that soapy bubbles is state of the art advanced technology and the meter Minnegasgo used by Minnegaso to detect leaks wasn’t? Suffice it to say, I agued with him and he agreed to tighten the pipes despite believing there was nothing wrong. After he tightend the pipes the smell of “sewer gas” diapppeared….completely…forever. Even though we were completely within our rights, the landlord has since collected rent for 3 years and never repaired a single thing. At present there is a bucket under my kitchen sink, and in the basement beneath the shower. Most of the electrical didn’t work when we moved in, since then half the lights in the basement have stopped working and the porch light is out. In addition the basement began leaking. The owner of the real estate agency and owner of my house, did make the a rare appearance to inspect the water coming in…that was 2 years ago. Now cracks between the concrete blocks run like faucets. with each rainfall we mop about 10 gallons of water.

My family has finally saved enough money to move, but it has been difficult to find a place that has 3 bedrooms and allows us to keep our 7 lbs. dog. I have retained all written communication with the owner regarding the state of disrepair but feel very concerned that the reason these business behave like imperialists is because its allowed. Upon finding a new place I do plan to take the issue to small claims court and request a partial refund of the rent I’ve paid. I must admit, I don’t hold any great hoping in seeing any of my money returned, maybe because I have yet so see infrastructures within the public school and government oversight agencies that leads me to believe that all the  proper checks and balances are in place.

Last weekend a friend of mine booked a room for the night at a small motel just off highway 10. They only accepted cash payments so she paid them 85.00 cash. Later she found dead bugs in both beds a large black cricket and several beetles. The person who rented her the room said she could not refund her money, that the matter would have to be taken up with the owners who not present. My friend and her children paid 85.00 and found themselves sleeping on my living room floor. Now, she’ll have to figure out how to get her money back which may include going to court…welcome to Little Falls.

Nothing I have written points to the kind of corruption outlined by Wheeler, but isn’t systematic disregard a symptom that indicates that the standard checks and balances aren’t being properly implimented? I can’t help but wonder if these businesses are really as insulated from accountability as they appear to be.

Floating in the basement,

Olive Rockfish

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