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Backus council approves 2.5 percent tax levy increase

The Backus City Council on Monday, Sept. 8, approved a preliminary levy of $141,619 for 2015. That's a 2.5 percent increase over the 2014 property tax levy of $138,165. The council can lower, but not raise, the preliminary levy before final adopt...

The Backus City Council on Monday, Sept. 8, approved a preliminary levy of $141,619 for 2015.

That's a 2.5 percent increase over the 2014 property tax levy of $138,165.

The council can lower, but not raise, the preliminary levy before final adoption in December.

Aggressive dog

In the interest of safety to children, city residents and city maintenance workers, the council agreed to send a letter outlining concerns about an aggressive dog to the landlord of a home where the dog recently showed up.

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Fire chief Jason Smith told the council the dog is behind a fence at a home near the former school and tennis courts, and it is always barking, growling and chewing at the fence when people are near.

The council noted that is a busy area with children and residents.

Public safety

The Cass County Sheriff's Office reported 26 calls for service in August, including a burglary and a theft, a fire call, an alarm, a property/land dispute, assist other agency, one domestic assault, six disturbing the peace and one fraud.

The sheriff's office reported it is investigating thefts in the area, though they aren't occuring in the residential area, but rather at vacant places.

The council approved Smith's request to add Darcie Gayken to the First Response team, raising the number of First Responders to 16.

Audit

The council approved the 2013 city audit as presented by Julie Nelson of Mayer, Porter & Nelson, Ltd, certified public accountants of Staples. Two material weaknesses were found:

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1. The city lacks control over the financial reporting process. This is common for small cities like Backus, Nelson said. The auditor recommended the council continue to review draft financial statements and take other precautionary steps.

2. The city does not have proper segregation of duties. This also is common for small cities like Backus, Nelson said. The auditor recommends the city have a designated council member to review the financial transactions and continue to have dual signatures on all checks written and have the council review payments made.

The city council was reminded of two fire department issues that arose through the audit. It was discovered the fire department had an extra bank account, and that has been closed.

And it was discovered that the department used the city's tax identification number, but the council had no control of the account and didn't formally accept donations made to the account. Also, funds in the account were used to pay for a Christmas party and local charitable donations, which wasn't acceptable. That issue also has been addressed.

In other business Monday, the council:

• Learned city hyrdants will be flushed and flags put on Thursday, Oct. 9.

• Learned the city failed recent tests for lead and copper in water so those tests will be redone this month. Lee Bundy, facilities manager with the Pine River Area Sanitary District, said this is testing water in homes, not the city's water supply, and is nothing residents should worry about.

If the retest fails, the tests will be done every three months. If the retest is successful, tests will go back to being done every three years.

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• Decided to move forward with an airport grant application to move and upgrade the airport beacon to a new location. Work is estimated at $48,000, and the city would pay 10 percent of the cost and the federal government 90 percent.

Related Topics: BACKUSBACKUS CITY COUNCIL
Nancy Vogt is editor of the Pineandlakes Echo Journal, a weekly newspaper that covers eight communities in the Pequot Lakes-Pine River areas - from Nisswa to Hackensack and Pequot Lakes to Crosslake.

She started as editor of the Lake Country Echo in July 2006, and continued in that role when the Lake Country Echo and the Pine River Journal combined in September 2013 to become the Pineandlakes Echo Journal. She worked for the Brainerd Dispatch from 1992-2006 in various roles.

She covers Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Lake Shore and Crosslake city councils, as well as writes feature stories, news stories and personal columns (Vogt's Notes). She also takes photos at community events.

Contact her at nancy.vogt@pineandlakes.com or 218-855-5877 with story ideas or questions. Be sure to leave a voicemail message!
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