Washington Evening Journal
http://washington-ia.villagesoup.com/p/963653

Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 21, 2014

Mahaska County drops RUSS

Washington County project discussed
By Trisha Phelps | Feb 15, 2013

MT. PLEASANT — After only being on the agenda as a discussion item for the first time, Mahaska County has made the decision to no longer participate in Regional Utility Service Systems.
“I received a letter from Mahaska County. Their supervisors voted to withdraw from RUSS,” said Bruce Hudson, executive director of RUSS.
“We think you’ve done a great job. We’ve seen it. But we’ve decided it is in the taxpayers’ best interest to withdraw. So we consider ourselves withdrawn from RUSS,” said Mahaska County Supervisor Mike Vander Molen.
“And obviously our position would be the exact opposite,” said Hudson, referring to the 28E agreement with Mahaska County.
In response to Hudson citing the 28E agreement, Vander Molen read from a copy of the 28E agreement to express why RUSS should allow them to leave.
“This is a copy of the original 28E and what it says at the bottom, ‘The commission shall not incur or issue any obligations without first securing the specific approval by resolutions adopted by the board of supervisors of each county.’” said Vander Molen. “So if RUSS’ position is we are still a member and Wapello County is a member and Davis County is still a member, RUSS can’t go forward with anything without the approval from each county. So Mahaska County’s position is if you’re frozen in, if we are still a member, you can’t go forward with anything else until this is resolved.”
“So your dues will always be $8,000 or above. We are never going to be able to lower the counties’ contributions if we never are able to develop any more projects,” said Daryl Wood, supervisor of Keokuk County, pointing out that if a county leaves, it would raise the financial burden on each of the other counties still a part of RUSS.
“The obligations to the other counties then would never go down. They would most likely go up,” said Hudson. “Maybe what we need to discuss at some point is if Wapello and Mahaska counties want out, is there a settlement rate?”
Hudson then encouraged Mahaska County to start arbitration.
During the meeting, Jeremiah Selby of Garden and Associates Engineering gave the board an update on the Richmond, Ollie and Rubio project, stating that since the project was originally drafted in March 2011 and has not yet started the rates have changed since the contract was first made.
“I have the updated rates for our engineering agreement. We are proposing that next month we submit that engineering agreement that would incorporate the last two years of delays which would be those engineering rate increases,” said Selby.
One of the reasons for the delay is the development of a community group, Residents for a Better Richmond, who disagree with RUSS putting in a lagoon.
Jack Seward Jr., supervisor from Washington County, informed the RUSS board of a presentation he will make at the end of the month to explain the options to Richmond residents at the end of February.
“Hopefully that presentation will give them an idea of options that they have proposed and the consequences of taking each one of those tasks, with the idea that once they see the comparison side-by-side, they will be able to say, ‘We want to get behind you.’ And if it comes down the way you guys and the engineers have laid it out, then I think the resistance to the program will disappear,” said Seward.
The board also:
• Discussed having an off-site accounting back-up policy.
• Approved Chris Ball and Daryl Wood to sign bank signature card for all RUSS bank accounts held at First National Bank in Fairfield.
• Discussed the “locate service” policy.
• Heard a project update from French-Reneker Engineering.
• Discussed deposit and investment of funds policy.

The next RUSS board meeting will be March 20, at 1 p.m. at the Henry County Emergency Management building.

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