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Backus City Council hears Cass County Sheriff's contract offer

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Cass County Sheriff Tom Burch gave a brief description of the services the sheriff’s department offers, as well as the cost of part-time or full-time contracts and the different resources the department offers, at the Backus City Council meeting Monday, March 4.

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The council is reviewing its options concerning police contracts for the city.

Backus currently contracts with the Pine River Police Department, but Cass County deputies also assist with emergencies in the city. Burch assured those present that even if Backus continues to contract with Pine River, the sheriff’s department would continue to respond to the city of Backus.

“No matter if you stay with your contract, we are certainly here to assist the agency you have in anything they need,” Burch said.

Burch said his department is currently paid approximately $40 an hour for a casual coverage rate, or $85,000 a year for a full-time rate in similar cities, depending on the services offered.

Mayor Kurt Sawyer suggested that the city could cut the cost of having a police force in half if it reduced the hours of coverage from 20 hours to 10 hours per day. Sawyer also said the city would save money because its current contract with the Pine River Police Department requires the city to pay for travel time between Pine River and Backus.

Furthermore, he said the officers on duty can sometimes be found patrolling the highway, near the Backus Legion parking lot or on a road near the Evergreen Cemetery.

“They’re not even in the city limits, and I guarantee we’re paying for it,” Sawyer said.

Backus Fire Chief Jason Smith said the Pine River Police Department can often respond to calls faster than the Cass County Sheriff’s Department. Council member Richard Bean agreed, saying Cass County is a large county.

Pine River Police Chief Paul Sand said the department would continue operating, but might lose one officer if Backus decides to drop its contract.

City Clerk Jeff Turk offered to create an analysis comparing the pros and cons of contracting with the county compared to the Pine River Police Department. If the city decided to change contracts, Turk said the city would be required to give 90 days notice.

In other business Monday, the council:

• Renewed the contract with the Backus Fire Department for an annual cost of $8,480.42.

• Approved reservation of the Trailside Pavilion for the Backus Old Timers’ city wide garage sale on behalf of the Cornfest Committee.

• Adopted a city Emergency Response Plan directing the response to various possible disasters within the city. Some government funding requires such a plan in order for cities to qualify for grants or loans.

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