After months of deliberation, the Backus City Council voted 3-2 Monday, Oct. 7, to approve a one-year contract for police coverage with the Cass County Sheriff’s Department.
Council members Rae Borst and Steve Braker voted in opposition.
The city currently contracts with the Pine River Police Department for 20 hours of coverage per week at a cost of approximately $35 an hour. The contract signed with the county offers police coverage for 10 hours a week at the cost of $40 an hour.
During negotiations, Pine River Police Chief Paul Sand told the council that the Pine River Police Department would be willing to contract with Backus for 10 hours per week at the same rate. Both contracts would have saved Backus approximately $20,000 a year, but the Cass County Sheriff’s Department also said investigators who spend 20 or more hours per week in the Backus Cass County Land Department building would also respond to calls, without extra cost, while they were in the city.
Backus resident Charles Dufour recommended that the city consider going without a contract entirely. Dufour said Hackensack currently has no police contract and depends exclusively on patrolling by state troopers and Cass County deputies. Dufour said the city could install cameras for less than the cost of contracting for police coverage.
Many present spoke of both advantages and disadvantages to contracting with the sheriff’s department. Backus Fire Chief Jason Smith said there were times when he responded to fires, accident scenes and medical calls in the area and found that Pequot Lakes police officers responded sooner than Cass County deputies. Mayor Kurt Sawyer said the opposite was true, and that the sheriff’s department sometimes responds faster than Pine River. Smith agreed.
The Pine River Police Department contract will continue until the end of 2013.
Also, the council:
• Announced a planned water outage from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 10. The outage will be caused by work to connect the water line to a gate valve in connection with the water treatment facility pump house renovations.
• Approved the fire department’s request to purchase tracks for the new brush fire rig at a cost of $8,500.
• Heard from Borst that some citizens are concerned of a buildup of water near Rocky Dock. City water/wastewater operator Lee Bundy said the water there was runoff, not treated water, and was safe for the environment.
• Said it plans to grade gravel streets just before the ground freezes so they will harden and not fall apart again before winter.
• Agreed to look into installing an automatic door opener at city hall as requested by resident Richard Brown to make the doors more handicap accessible.
• Approved a conditional use permit for a temporary structure in Brown’s front yard. Conditions require that the structure only remain on the property as long as Brown lives there.
• Agreed to locate conditions for the city’s revolving loan fund so the council can approve a loan application by B&L Automotive before winter.