The smallest township survivesGetting beyond first impressions in Grey Cloud Island Township
By: Judy Spooner, South Washington County Bulletin
Nearly two years after the final legal annexation battle that sent about 600 acres from Grey Cloud Island Township into St. Paul Park, not much has changed in the township except that it has the distinction of being the smallest township in the state.
There are 125 households in the township and 305 residents, longtime Town Clerk Rich Mullen said when I asked him at the January meeting.
I attended my first Grey Cloud meeting as a reporter in the early ‘70s. I left journalism for two five-year stints to attend college and do other stuff, but I’m the only Bulletin reporter who has covered it on a regular basis.
From time to time, editors assigned other reporters who attended one meeting and never returned.
Maybe, it’s the town hall atmosphere that sent reporters packing.
I’ve called the windowless, cement-block building a “bunker” on occasion. A filing cabinet, which has a drawer that was bent when someone tried to break into it years ago, stands guard over about 20 chairs for the audience.
Some spiffy storage was added during my tenure and the curtains were replaced on the voting booths two years ago. Mostly, however, things haven’t changed much over the years.
The town board replaced the front door several years ago. Before the new one, the other one was hard to open. Mullen solved the problem for a time by writing a message on the door to pull it “really hard” to open it.
The padded chairs, stackable ones you can buy really cheap at Sam’s Club, were an upgrade. They replaced the rusting folding chairs. Those who came to the meeting early got to sit in one of six chairs that Mullen put some simply dashing green shag carpet squares on to helped to pad them a little and keep the cold at bay.
I’ve seen mice run across the floor during meetings.
Maybe the one-time reporters were jolted to find there are no bathroom facilities in the winter. From experience, I restrict my liquid intake on meeting days from November to April when the portable potty returns.
Maybe they were surprised when they were dive-bombed by June bugs in late spring. For a time, screen doors — not actually working doors but panels placed in the door openings — kept the bugs out, but eventually they became warped and didn’t fit the openings anymore.
Did you know that bug spray does not affect June bugs?
If a reporter didn’t wear winter boots with thick soles to insulate their feet from the cold concrete-slab floor, it could have been uncomfortable.
I dress in layers in the winter because it’s warm when the ceiling heaters are on, but they go off from time to time and it gets cold. A vest helps.
If you miss a meeting, like I did in December, it’s hard to watch the meeting on cable television. Because of the noise from the heaters, it’s hard to hear what’s going on.
You have to attend a township meeting in person to get the full experience.
The one-time reporters didn’t stay long enough to appreciate that the township has some of the nicest, wittiest and politically savvy residents I know.
There’s something to be said for getting beyond a first impression.