Backus: Council chooses to go to court

City council considered other options in tree abatement issue.

Backus city hall. PineandLakes Echo Journal file photo.

Attorney Dan Hawley provided the Backus City Council with an update on the ongoing effort to seek an abatement to remove trees in the approach of the Backus Municipal Airport during the Monday, Nov. 1, regular meeting.

Hawley said property owner Tylor Risk's attorney submitted a response to the council's denial of a variance to keep the trees. The attorney said they could continue and refer the case to a judge and ask for a summary judgment, or the council could consider purchasing the corner of the property where the trees grow, if it costs less than court fees.

Buying the small portion of the property would offer the benefit of avoiding this same issue years from now when other trees there grow taller; however, the council as a whole does not anticipate receiving an offer of a reasonable value. The property owner is already requesting compensation if the council has the trees removed.

Mayor Kurt Sawyer said the prices for the compensation are unrealistic, stating that Cass County views a cord of lumber in the $60 range, and there isn't even likely a cord to be removed.

Council member Karl Flier said he was not in favor of purchasing the corner. The council agreed they should continue with the abatement process as the council had originally intended.


Sawyer reiterated that council members were not seeking the abatement on their own advice, but were required to do so by Minnesota Department of Transportation Aeronautics requirements for municipal airports. Sawyer said the trees pose a safety risk to planes, houses and cars in the approach and interfered with wind on the runway, causing more safety issues.

Hawley said the state and the city both have laws that allow for removal in such cases.

In other business Monday, the council approved disbursement of additional payroll to Backus firefighters who helped reinforce the Backus City Council building following a fire Feb. 2. Combined, the firefighters logged 103.25 hours, an additional $2,065 in wages.

The council also approved $1,370 in reimbursement for time spent providing supervision and possible medical intervention during extrication of protesters chained to an upturned vehicle.

The council instructed Clerk Ann Swanson to do everything in her power to convince the insurance adjuster to pay the additional wages to the firefighters because the work they did saved the city an estimated $50,000 in labor and prevented additional damage to the contents of the building due to freezing conditions and heavy snowfall.

The council also:

  • Approved the first response decision to purchase a LUCAS device, which automatically performs chest compressions in lifesaving situations.
  • Chose to refer the new Pine River Area Sanitary District contract to the city attorney.
  • Agreed to certify unpaid utilities to the owners' property tax rolls.

Travis Grimler is a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper in Pequot Lakes/Pine River. He may be reached at 218-855-5853 or

Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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