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Backus council leans toward county police coverage

The Backus City Council reconvened the regular council meeting that began Sept. 9 to make a decision on the Lakes Gas contract and the contract for police coverage.

The council discussed the possibility of contracting with the Cass County Sheriff's Department for public safety instead of with the Pine River Police Department.

In the current contract, the Pine River Police Department is contracted for 20 hours per week in Backus for a little less than $40 an hour. The contract being discussed with Cass County is for eight hours per week at the cost of $40 an hour. If the council were to accept this reduced contract it could save approximately $20,000 a year,

Mayor Kurt Sawyer said two investigators, who spend 20-30 hours a week at the Cass County Land Department building in Backus, would also respond to 911 calls in Backus for no additional cost if the city contracts with Cass County. Sawyer said he spoke to approximately 30 residents who were in favor of the change.

Council member Rae Borst said she also spoke to several residents who supported the change of contract.

Pine River Police Chief Paul Sand asked the council if it would consider keeping a contract with the Pine River Police Department for 10 hours a week instead of 20. The cost would be approximately the same as an eight-hour-a-week contract with Cass County.

Sawyer reminded council members that a contract with Cass County would also mean investigators from the land office would respond to 911 calls.

“Most things are 911 call-ins.” Sawyer said.

Sawyer said the city should give Cass County a one-year contract.

Council member Steve Braker said some of the benefits of the Cass County contract were not actually in the written contract. He said that the council should get confirmation from the Cass County Board that they will accept the contract before making any decisions.

“It’s not approved yet. It could be approved, it probably will be approved, but it’s not yet. So, I don’t think we should make an absolute decision on this until that board (Cass County) gives us an absolute OK on it,” Braker said.

“It would be nice if we actually had citizen feedback,” Borst said. “You had the feedback of people saying, ‘Yes we want to go with the county because we’ll be save $20,000,’ but what about the feedback of the people that say, ‘We’re going to save $20,000 even if we cut the amount of time for the Pine River Police Department’?”

The council approved a Lakes Gas contract at a price of $1.399 per gallon of propane for three locations within the city. This price would be good for the first 3,000 gallons for the town homes, the first 1,750 gallons for city buildings, and the first 300 gallons for the municipal airport. Anything beyond that amount would be charged at the market rate, or the city could possibly negotiate for a better rate.

Usage last year for city buildings was 2,367 gallons. Lakes Gas chooses lock-in rates by averaging the past three years usage for the city.