‘I wish I had better news’Seward reports DNR stands firm on sewer issue
The status of the Richmond and Rubio sanitary sewer projects is on every weekly agenda of the Washington County Board of Supervisors. Supervisor Jack Seward Jr. is the supervisor to turn to when that discussion item comes up.
“I wish I had better news,” Seward began during Tuesday morning’s weekly meeting.
He went on to say that he had a meeting last Thursday at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) office in Washington.
“From the conversation we had at that time, it appears to me that the DNR is going to stand firm, that any property that had previously been included with a lagoon project will, according to what they told me, will continue to be covered under the order that we’re currently operating on.”
He also said there are about 100 properties affected by the once-proposed community lagoon sewer system.
Seward’s plan for Richmond was to have the properties that likely contributed to the four contaminated sites the DNR found in Richmond either have permitted private septic systems or install a permitted system. His plan would affect about 20 properties.
Even the 35 to 40 properties that have permitted septic systems will need to have a time-of-transfer-type inspection and be certified the septic systems are operating correctly.
“I’m attempting to again to have a meeting with Dennis Ostwinkle (of the DNR) this Friday to see if we can’t come up with a common-sense understanding of what the community is and who should be involved,” Seward said.
Richmond area resident David Rosen said at Tuesday’s meeting that there are people who live along Nutmeg Avenue near the lagoon site who were not intended to be hooked up to the lagoon system and they have been getting letters from the supervisors. He said these properties were needed for a high-pressure sewer line at one time. He also said no one would hook into a high-pressure sewer line.
“There were either seven or 11 of those types of properties,” Seward said, “that I think were identified initially because there was an easement involved or they lived within 200 feet or 200 yards, whatever it was, of the easements that was needed.”
Board chairman Ron Bennett said that the DNR gave the county the list of names that needed to be contacted.
Seward affirmed that and said that once a bureaucracy got a name added to a list, it is not easy to get it off the list.
“But I haven’t given up yet,” he said.
Richmond resident Tom Duwa asked if people’s yards will have to be torn up in order to inspect the septic systems.
Environmental Health director Jennine Wolf said that time-of-transfer inspectors would decide how to test the systems which depends on how each system was installed. In some cases, some digging may be necessary.
As that conversation wound down, Seward spoke about two letters the county received from the Regional Utility Service Systems (RUSS) board. Seward is Washington County’s RUSS representative. He said that the total amount of money RUSS wants to be repaid is approximately $386,000, and RUSS wants the money repaid sooner than the supervisors expected. The letter says the money is payable in 60 days.
Broken down, RUSS wants $231,239.94 repaid for Richmond and $154,786.34 for Rubio. In addition, RUSS wants approximately $26,700 from Washington County for delaying the Ollie sewer project, which caused increased costs for Ollie.
Spreadsheets from RUSS accompanied the letters. According to the letters, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development reviewed and approved the expenses.
Seward said he will contact the USDA to find out “exactly” what they reviewed and approved.
In other business, Cathy Lloyd presented a request to repair the bell on the county courthouse’s clock tower. She said the project would not cost the county anything, that the funds would be raised with grants and private donations. The supervisors did not take formal action on her request in order to give county attorney Larry Brock time to look over a contract for the bell tower restoration before making a decision.
The board also met in closed session pursuant to Code of Iowa, Chapter 21.5(1)(j) to discuss the purchase or sale of real estate. According to county auditor Dan Widmer, the board voted to authorize the county attorney, with the assistance of Steve Davis and Ron Bennett, to draft a letter in response to a letter dated July 8, 2013, from Holy Trinity Catholic Church.