The Backus City Council set appointments for 2014 at its regular meeting Monday, Jan. 6.
Most appointments remained the same as 2013, though some changed because of the resignation of council member Richard Bean, who held positions as secretary pro-tem, water and sewer commissioner and street commissioner. Council member Rae Borst accepted a position as secretary pro-tem while Mayor Kurt Sawyer accepted the water and sewer commissioner and street commissioner positions. The council also updated the title of the official newspaper to Pineandlakes Echo Journal.
There was discussion about whether to appoint Widseth Smith Nolting & Associates (WSN) or Short, Elliott, Hendrickson (SEH) as city engineer.
Council member Steve Braker suggested the council stay with WSN because the firm has had a long tradition of working with the city and knows it well. Borst asked questions of WSN and SEH representatives to determine any benefits from one to another.
“We would attend city council meetings at no charge. Last year we made it to all 12 even though we didn’t have anything particular on the agenda. But it’s good to stay in tune. We answer miscellaneous questions at no charge,“ said WSN Engineer Timothy Houle. “Until it comes to a specific project and you have a project in front of you, we don’t charge to be your city engineer.”
Houle said WSN has years worth of files on Backus streets, as well as studies done in the past, meaning the firm already has information the city might need to pay to establish with another company.
Engineer Jeff Ledin of SEH said his firm could provide much of the same services. Houle said that being city engineer did not mean Backus couldn’t contract with other firms on different projects.
“I’m only city engineer at each meeting if I can get three out of five votes,” Houle said.
Hourly wages for projects depend on the projects and which personnel are needed for each project. In some departments, SEH would be less expensive; in others WSN would be less expensive. As a result, there is little or no way to directly compare costs without a specific project in mind.
Borst commended both firms for their help with past projects. The council unanimously agreed to keep WSN as city engineer.
All current members of the council were present, though there is one vacant seat on the council.
In other business Monday, the council:
• Scheduled a Cass County Sheriff’s Office open house and Community Outreach Day for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 16, at Backus City Hall. The meeting will offer a chance to communicate with Cass County Sheriff Tom Burch and talk about different permit applications, including alarm permits and permits to own or carry firearms. The Take It to the Box prescription drug disposal box will also be present.
• Authorized giving unused lift station equipment to the Pine River Sanitary District in exchange for a snow blower. The council also approved sale of the city’s old plow truck for $3,600.
• Heard Facilities Operator Lee Bundy show appreciation for patience from Backus residents during various sewer and water issues during the past year.
• Approved a second payment for rehabilitation of the water pump house at a cost of $30,088.40.
• Agreed to allow Bundy to spend up to $500 to rehabilitate a town home apartment that is being vacated.
• Heard from former council member Charles Dufour, who would like to be considered for the position on the council that Bean vacated. Borst thanked Dufour for past contributions to the city.
• Agreed to fill the vacant position on the council in February.