Over $10,000 repairs spur investigation into watery fuel in Backus

Warranty denied only after repairs had been made


BACKUS — An over $10,000 bill for repairs to a piece of large equipment spurred the Backus City Council to seek answers for who is responsible for watery fuel.

Jake Freeman, of the Pine River Area Sanitary District and head of Backus' public works, presented the council at their Monday, May 1, regular meeting with a report on an expensive repair recently to the city's Bobcat by Bobcat of Brainerd.

The city accrued three bills for maintenance on the machine after it started having problems. A payment has already been remitted for an over $500 bill for repair, but the council instructed city Clerk Ann Swanson to wait to cut a check for two additional payments, $9,975.51 and $717.92, until they have a chance to address responsibility for the damage.

The council did not become aware of the high cost until the repair had already been done, which rankled council member Karl Flier. Freeman said the repair was completed with the understanding it would be covered by a warranty; however, once it was determined that the damage to the engine was caused by water in the fuel, Bobcat refused to pay out the warranty after repairs had already been done.

Headline News from The PineandLakes Echo Journal

Freeman said after the engine started to malfunction, a return trip to the gas station where the fuel was purchased revealed that the gas station had been made aware of other engines experiencing trouble due to water in the fuel. Freeman said employees behind the counter were talking about the water and one was in the process of trying to measure how much water was in a gas can that had just been filled.


The council directed Freeman to schedule a meeting with the station owners to discuss possible liability associated with the water contaminating the fuel and causing motor damage. The council felt the liability could belong to insurance held by either the station or the station's fuel provider.

In the meantime, Mayor Kurt Sawyer instructed Freeman to purchase a water separating filter to prevent a repeat in the future.

In other business Monday, the council approved a request by Fire Chief Jason Smith to accept redrawn first response boundaries between Backus and Hackensack to accurately match the city's fire districts.

Until recently, Hackensack's Fire and Rescue team has assumed coverage of some neighborhoods within the Backus fire district in both Powers and Ponto townships.

Until recently, if Hackensack did not have responders near to Powers or Ponto residents, they were to request mutual aid. Smith said there had been some instances of calls falling through the cracks or receiving attention from both departments due to the overlap.

Some townships asked Hackensack to redraw their boundaries to match fire districts to avoid continued confusion. The change required approval from all of those who contracted with the Backus and Hackensack fire departments, including the city of Backus.

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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