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Canton cleanup effort spins off into online dispute

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Knutson's repainted shed

CANTON, Minn. (KTTC) -- A movement to improve a Fillmore County town has now become a war of words.

"Our property values are quite low. You only raise that by improving the appearance of your town," said Mayor Donivee Johnson.

To do that, the City of Canton notified residents in violation of city ordinances.

"Sometimes that makes people unhappy," said Johnson.

Jamie Knutson is one of those people. His shed has been an issue for Canton for months.

"I'm not going to tear it down until I can put another one up," said Knutson, who would not go on camera.

Instead, he and his children painted it the colors of the rainbow.

It seemed innocent until Knutson posted a picture of it on Facebook with a homophobic slur directed at the city clerk.

"It really touches a sensitive spot for me because I know how that affected me," said city clerk Brock Bergey, who grew up in Canton. "I think about other young people out there that are struggling to find their sexual identities."

The shed has since been repainted but Bergey says the message has already been sent.

"It does hurt me," Bergey said. "It hurts me a lot."

He responded to the incident on his own Facebook page.

"Even in small town Minnesota, these important conversations need to happen," said Bergey.

Knutson and his wife have both reached out to Bergey to apologize.

"I've tried to tell him sorry multiple times," Knutson said. "I don't know what else I can do."

Bergey says he is still deciding whether to accept the apology.

"We don't have to always agree but we can agree to be respectful of one another," said Bergey.

Residents say agreement is usually the norm for this town of around 350 people.

"As a rule, most of us get along fine," said Johnson.

We spoke with Fillmore County Sheriff John DeGeorge who said the incident is an open investigation.

Alex Tejada

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