Mahaska still trying to separate from RUSS
MT PLEASANT — The Regional Utility Service Systems (RUSS) board of directors can expect to be dealing with a lawsuit every year that Mahaska County isn’t allowed to leave the organization, according to Mike Vander Molen, Mahaska County supervisor.
“There can be arbitration every year,” said Vander Molen. “This can end up back in the court room.”
According to arbitration proceedings, Mahaska County may not withdraw from the RUSS agreement or existing projects as long as revenue bond obligations are outstanding. However, Vander Molen says his county will do whatever it takes to get out of RUSS.
The arbitration ruling also states that Mahaska County owes RUSS $8,000 for past due membership fees.
While the other participating counties’ supervisors representatives sat at the board table, Vander Molen sat in the audience and only spoke during the public comments portion of the meeting, because according to Vander Molen, his county doesn’t consider it a part of RUSS.
During the public comments portion at the end of the meeting, Vander Molen made it clear he was not willing to participate in RUSS.
“If you want to grow RUSS that is fine, but we don’t want to participate in that. I think you need something from us, and we need something from you so that at some point there can be a mutual agreement which would allow you to continue on and would allow us to move on ourselves,” said Vander Molen. We aren’t looking to pick a fight just for the thrill of the fight, but we need to protect our taxpayers and will continue to do what we have to in that regard.
“We aren’t looking to get out of anything we had previously agreed to,” continued Vander Molen. “I mean, our board approved those resolutions approving those projects and whatever we are on the hook for today we would continue to be on the hook for in the future. We aren’t looking to get out of those obligations at all, but sometime you are going to have to move forward as an organization, otherwise you are going to be stuck in this middle ground where you can’t continue to grow when you want to.”
According to Vander Molen, he had requested that there be an agenda item for yesterday’s meeting to discuss a possible settlement that would allow Mahaska County out of RUSS and was disappointed to see it had not made the agenda.
“I don’t know what happened with that (agenda item), but I think it is worth having a discussion at some point because I want to continue to be on good terms with you guys,” said Vander Molen.
“Well, we came to the consensus that it would be rather foolish for the RUSS board to sit down and discuss a possible solution when you aren’t willing to abide by the arbitration ruling,” said Deke Wood, RUSS board chairman.
According to Bruce Hudson, RUSS Executive Director, Mahaska County has not paid the $8,000 owed due to the arbitration ruling. RUSS has filed an order to comply against Mahaska County in an attempt to have the county pay what the ruling has decided is owed to RUSS.