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Minnesota man suing Boise over bridge tickets

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A Minnesota lawyer is taking Boise Cascade to court to challenge the company’s decision to make the old bridge tickets obsolete in the wake of the new swipe cards.

“I did it. I just thought it was very unfair that the bridge owners sold bridge tickets and refused to offer it,” said Joel Anderson, a former International Falls, Mn. resident who now has a law office in White Bear Lake, Mn.

The tickets no longer were accepted at the toll booth on the bridge, which is owned and operated by the mill, as of Oct. 1. Swipe cards now being sold instead for local commuters.

But Anderson is arguing the tickets, which don’t carry an expiry date, should be honoured for at least another six years.

“I expect it to be a very simple lawsuit. As an attack on Boise, it’s a simple attack. I personally relied on the fact that [the tickets] would be honoured,” said Anderson.

“My first stop is with Minnesota law and federal law related to commerce and NAFTA,” he noted.

“From what I remember as a resident of the Falls, everyone has been speculating that this is a breeding ground for mischief,” he continued. “It’s not like someone can build a bridge. We have a monopoly and if it’s going to be a monopoly, it should be regulated.”

Although a Boise spokesman said they hadn’t received anything as of Tuesday afternoon, Anderson said he has filed the suit and plans to file several discovery motions, which will force the mill to release information such as the cost of maintaining the bridge and the amount of money made at the toll booth.

Anderson is urging residents to hang onto their bridge tickets as he is confident that with all the levels of government involved on both sides of the border, he will be able force the company to accept them.

“I’d be surprised if I can’t get some level of government on either side of the bridge to do something,” he said. “Only two choices seem reasonable--regulate or take the bridge away.”

Meanwhile, a group of Fort Frances residents met here Tuesday night to form a citizens’ organization that will push for a new bridge as well as to fight the current toll changes and the future of a new Canada Customs facility.

“We’re quite behind this Anderson fellow. It’s really too bad it took an outsider to shake things up,” said Cathy Richards, one of the founders of the committee. “We’re going to touch base with him and say go for it, obviously.”

The group plans to be a sub-committee of the committee formed by the mayors of International Falls and Fort Frances that also will look at the feasibility of building a new bridge here.

Just over a dozen people showed up for the meeting.

“It’s just been coffee talk up until now but now we’re organized. We’re going to be the Citizens for the Bridge Committee. We want to make sure this doesn’t go away,” Richards stressed.

The committee will meet again Nov. 28, when it will announce a chair and co-chair. Its first goal is to seek out others in the community to support them with petitions, memberships, and participation.

“There are so many complaints and what one person asked is if everyone’s so angry, where is everybody?” noted Richards, who said the committee will encourage those residents to come out and join them.

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