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Backus Fire Department, council discuss bank account

Backus Fire Chief Jason Smith is working with the Backus City Council to find a solution to a banking issue discovered in the annual audit. Solutions were discussed at the Monday, July 7, city council meeting.

The audit revealed that the fire department had a checking account using the city's tax identification number. The auditor told the city and fire department that this was unacceptable.

Smith said the fire department traditionally uses the account for Christmas party purchases and donations to local charitable causes. The fire department raises the account funds through donations and fundraisers, such as the annual smelt fry.

Records from all expenses are recorded and are accounted for, but the use of the city tax identification number means the city has certain responsibilities, liabilities and stipulations, so the account had to be closed.

Smith proposed that the current account be closed and its balance transferred to a new general fund associated with the department's relief fund. Smith said the balance could be transferred to the city, but the city has limits on what it can spend money on. The city cannot spend money on charitable donations and Christmas parties.

"That's what other departments have been doing is running it through the relief association to get around all the stuff you cannot buy as a city. If we want to buy flowers for somebody's funeral, we can't legally do that out of that checkbook because that's city money. That's taxpayers' money," Smith said.

Council member Karl Flier said the money was transferred to the relief association's general fund during his time with the department. Smith and Backus Clerk Ann Swanson said the current account is not connected to the relief association, and there is no record that it had been.

The council decided to consult with the auditor to see if Smith's proposed solution was acceptable.

In other business Monday, the council:

• Learned that the Cornfest Committee will be handling carding and bracelets for the beer garden in front of Willard's Saloon during the Backus Cornfest.

• Approved two new firefighters for the Backus Fire Department.

• Approved a roofing bid of $2,200 to repair the leaking roof of the water tower shed using a metal roof. The bid was entered by Neumann Construction of Brainerd. Flier noted he prefers to keep work local whenever possible.

• Agreed to purchase two speed bumps for Point Road for $169.90 each.

• Decided to consult with Cass County about adding sand to the beach locally known as Sawdust at the end of Wood Street.

• Decided not to reimburse a resident for a mailbox damaged during the winter. It was noted that the mailbox was not on a swing away post and the city could set precedent if it replaces the mailbox.

• Approved a grant application to move and repair the beacon at the Backus Municipal Airport.