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Torn between two counties: Jasper deals with the everyday challenges of being in two counties

Welcome to Jasper sign. (Justine Wettschreck/Daily Globe)1 / 2
A sign for Jasper Stone Co. Inc. (Justine Wettschreck/Daily Globe)2 / 2

JASPER -- When homesteaders founded the city of Jasper, they were thinking about the proximity to the quarries laden with the Sioux quartzite from which the town got its name.

In 1888, the year Jasper was officially founded, some settlers had lived in the area for over a decade. The township of Rose Dell had been declared created in 1877 by the Rock County Board, but somehow Jasper ended up straddling the county line of Rock and Pipestone counties.

Twenty percent of the city is in Rock County, and the other 80 percent is in Pipestone County. When adding in rural community members, Jasper lies in four townships, four counties and two states. The city proper is two miles east of the South Dakota border, so some rural community members live in South Dakota's Minnehaha and Moody counties.

Kris Rodman, Jasper City Clerk, said in her 20 years in the position, she has never run across the city charter, nor did her predecessor. But historical papers, books and articles all confirm the 1888 incorporation.

"Originally, the west end of town was platted as the main downtown area, but people apparently wanted to live closer to the quarry," she explained.

The town's main business district is located along Wall Street, which is in Pipestone County, but just one block to the south, Rock County begins.

"It can be very confusing," Rodman admitted with a grin. "You really have to be on your toes about some things."

The estimated population is around 584, and has hovered close to 600 for many years, she said. Right now, there are 41 people and 29 registered voters in the Rock County side of Jasper; the others live on the Pipestone County side. People on the Pipestone County side can vote in Jasper, but those from the Rock County side now have to vote either in Rock County or in Rose Dell Township. To make things a bit easier, Rock County Jasper residents not in Rose Dell Township now vote by mailin ballot.

"We have one city property assessor, but two county assessors have to coordinate their activities," Rodman explained.

Highway maintenance also has to be coordinated between the two counties, as does public health and city issues such as budgets, outstanding debts and levies.

"The paperwork for those has to go to both counties," Rodman said.

Law enforcement can be confusing as well. Pipestone handles Jasper's law enforcement for the most part, but if a business is broken into on the Rock County side, the Rock County Sheriff's Office gets involved. Sometimes, both counties investigate so they can pick up clues for other cases they might be working on, Rodman said.

Even the numbering of the roads is a bit tricky. Pipestone County streets have even numbers, Rock County streets have odd numbers. When a person travels east to west and crosses Sherman Avenue, the addresses also change from east to west also. City Hall is located at 105 Wall Street East; a block to the West things are Wall Street West.

"It is a bit crazy, but we have worked things out over the years," Rodman said. "You just have to be careful."

Recently, there was a situation involving an abandoned house. Because it was on the Rock County side of town, Rodman worked with Nobles-Rock Public Health (NRPH) to get the problem resolved. Now, a house on the Pipestone County side has become a concern, so Rodman had to contact Lincoln, Lyon, Murray, Pipestone Public Health (LLMPPH). According to Rodman, NRPH was a huge help on the Rock County house, but the Pipestone house is more of a problem.

"With (LLMPPH), we can't even get to first base," she stated.

Sometimes it seems as if certain efforts are duplicated, such as when Rodman had to attend the hazard mitigation plan meetings in both Rock and Pipestone counties.

"We have to be included in both county's plans, just in case," she stated. "But usually, when you attend two meetings, you learn things from the other county."

According to an article in the Argus-Leader from 1961, the city of Jasper did attempt to secede from Rock County after the road running down the county line needed to be blacktopped. The article states Mayor Cecil Olson asked the Rock County commissioners to share onethird of the cost of blacktopping the gravel street. Pipestone County was amenable to paying a third of the cost of the seven-block project, and the village of Jasper was to pay a third. But from Rock County officials, the city received "nothing but alibis," the article states.

Rock County officials, at the time, responded by stating they were prepared to pay their share of the cost until it was discovered a state law prohibited them from doing so.

To secede from the county, the road would have to be made a state aid road, and an act of legislature would be needed for the village to permanently attach itself to Pipestone County.

A follow-up article regarding the outcome was not located, but since Jasper is still part of both counties, one can assume either legislature did not approve the secession or the attempt to do so was not followed through.

Like many small towns, the population of Jasper has declined slightly, and losing its school district a while back hurt the community in both lost jobs and an empty building.

"Kids go to school in Pipestone, Edgerton, Garretson (S.D.) and Dell Rapids (S.D.)," she explained. "It pulls the community apart."

The city isn't completely off the beaten track, though, Rodman said. Minnesota 23 runs right through the town, as does the Great Northern Railroad line.

"We still have the train and do big train loads of 108 cars," she explained. "It keeps the elevator hopping."

In a community profile Rodman put together several years ago, she wrote, "We are proud of our accomplishments. Besides starting an assisted living facility in the closed elementary school, $250,000 was raised by the community to assist in the $855,000 rehabilitation of the building. A new Emergency Services Building was built for our fire department and ambulance service. In 1995, the city council undertook and completed a couple of major public utility upgrades. We replaced our dilapidated sewage treatment mechanical plant with a new pond system. We also connected to the Lincoln-Pipestone Rural Water System to insure quality public water to our community as a replacement for a very old shallow well system with significant quality and quantity risks."

Jasper has six churches, an economic development authority, a senior citizens organization, an American Legion, a community band, Meals on Wheels, boy and girl scout organizations, a Lions Club and more.

The city is, however, becoming more of a bedroom community, Rodman said.

The Jasper Stone Company, which started life as the Dell Rapids Granite Company in 1888, was purchased in 2001 by L.G. Everest Co., which is now developing the building materials that were used so frequently in the early 1900s. Jasper Quartzite is a valuable commodity, and as technology is developed to make it easier to work with, its popularity has grown.