The ongoing dispute between the Engelking family and Enbridge Energy Partners took another odd turn when two Enbridge employees were ticketed for trespassing on the family's property while searching for a contest medallion.
Tony Hommerding and Eric Stenson were issued tickets after walking onto Jerry Engelking's property in Superior on the morning of Feb. 2. They waived their rights to contest trespassing citations by failing to appear this week in Douglas County Court.
The incident further aggravates strained relations that have resulted in a series of charges and countercharges involving a pipeline project.
Engelking said that when he confronted the men Feb. 2, they admitted to walking onto his property, which is posted with "Private Property" signs, but told him they had been searching for a medallion that had been hidden as part of a Winterfest contest by KQDS-FM 95 for an all-terrain vehicle. Engelking said it appeared the two men followed some snowshoe tracks that led to a pond on his property.
Hommerding said he thought he was on public land.
"We had no intentions of trespassing," he said. "When it was brought to our attention, we apologized. If I was wrong, I was wrong. It's just extremely unfortunate."
Hommerding already has paid the $335 fine on his trespassing ticket. Stenson, who could not be reached for comment, had not done so as of Thursday afternoon.
Lorraine Grymala, an Enbridge spokeswoman, said the men were not engaged in company business when they strayed onto Engelking's property.
"It's my understanding they were on their own personal time, and they were following clues on a medallion hunt," she said. "It was an honest mistake. They followed some snowshoe tracks and ended up going across Mr. Engelking's land."
Organizers of the medallion hunt said they were putting the medallion on public property. It was found that day near the boat launch in Billings Park.
The incident happened about 8:45 a.m., Engelking said.
As for the men's use of an Enbridge truck, Grymala said it's not unusual for employees who need to be ready to respond to urgent service calls to drive company vehicles while off duty.
"If nothing else, they displayed an amazing lack of judgment by coming onto our property," said Engelking, noting that Enbridge's long-running problems with his family are well-known within the company and in the community.
Enbridge has sued the Engelkings for breach of contract in a case slated for a September trial. The company contends the family violated the terms of a permanent easement granted across their land by a prior landowner in 1949. That easement agreement allowed for the installation of additional lines along the same corridor in return for future compensation.
However, the Engelkings have rejected these payments when offered and have vocally opposed efforts to run additional pipelines through their property.
Jerry's son, Jeremy Engelking, was arrested in December 2009 after telling an Enbridge crew to get off land he owns next door to his parents' home. Even though he was on his own land, Engelking was charged with trespassing on a construction site and disorderly conduct. He was taken away in handcuffs only to have both charges subsequently dropped, but not before the case made national news.
The new pipeline finally was installed across the Engelkings' properties, and in August, Judge George Glonek issued an injunction, ordering the Engelkings to grant Enbridge additional access to their property to complete remediation work.
If the company wins its suit against the Engelkings it could seek damages related to delays the family caused, as well as the recovery of legal expenses.