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Backus: Council contracts with Sourcewell, orders tree removal, sets levy

Council looking at improving zoning services through contract and other means.

The Backus City Council considered several important topics including zoning, the levy and tree abatement during its Sept. 13 regular meeting. Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

The city of Backus joined the ranks of many other small area cities Monday, Sept. 13, when the city council elected to contract with Sourcewell for zoning services.

The contract is not for an annual lump sum rate. Instead, the city will only pay on an as-needed basis. The fee will be $55 per hour. The council hopes contracting with an outside organization will make it easier to enforce more contentious zoning rules. Denton Newman Jr. has been in charge of the city's zoning for years; however, he is a city resident.

Council members said it might be easier for an outside group to enforce certain rules since that group won't be facing neighbors, friends and family. The council said Newman can still continue to perform zoning duties, but adding Sourcewell to the mix may improve the services further.

The council briefly discussed creating a zoning group, though no specifics were discussed.

Trees near the airport


The Backus City Council officially issued a "Variance Decision Order" prepared by City Attorney Dan Hawley, of Gammello-Pearson, denying a request for a variance to allow a property on the edge of town to keep a group of trees that is growing too tall within the municipal airport's runway approach.

The order states: "These trees must be abated to ensure public safety."

The abatement comes as a result of an Aug. 30 variance request hearing by the property owners. The property owner will now have a chance to either comply and allow removal of the trees, or appeal the decision, which would send the case to a district court where a judge would make the ultimate determination.

There were no representatives from the property at Monday's meeting.

2022 levy

The council approved its proposed tax levy for 2022 of $162,000, which is $3,000 more than the 2021 levy. That's just shy of a 2% increase.

Clerk Ann Swanson said the increase was to cover the increase of the cost of living in general.

In other business Monday, the council:


  • Requested additional quotes for blown in insulation for city hall.
  • Agreed to purchase a water heater and have it wired by an electrician at the airport.

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

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