Residents for a Better Richmond seek to nullify RUSS agreement changes
A recently approved amendment to a 28E agreement between Washington County and the Regional Utility Service Systems (RUSS) to cover the cost of additional expenses of a proposed Richmond sewer system has drawn a lawsuit from a community group seeking to nullify the change.
In the suit, filed Nov. 6 in Iowa District Court for Washington County, the group Residents for a Better Richmond (RBR) is seeking to declare the changed agreement, which the supervisors approved 4-1, void. The suit said that on Oct. 23 the county entered into a loan agreement that obligates Washington County to fund the payment of bonds from the general fund. The bond will fund a loan agreement to finance the sewer system. The suit alleges that according to Iowa code, the county cannot enter into a loan agreement or issue bonds that incur indebtedness to the general fund.
The suit also cites that part of the project is being constructed in a floodplain, which it claims violates federal law.
“Based on the foregoing, the actions of the Defendant (the Washington County Board of Supervisors) in adopting the aforesaid resolution exceeded its authority,” the suit says.
The resolution authorized the issuance of the General Obligation Sewer Improvement Loan Agreement Anticipation Project Note in principal not to exceed $273,000. In a legal opinion from Washington County Attorney Larry Brock, the amendment to the agreement were found “acceptable” and it was Brock’s recommendation the board sign it. The opinion said that the changes did not significantly alter the underlying purpose and terms of the original agreement.
During the meeting in which the amendment were approved, Supervisor Ron Bennett, who cast the sole “no” vote, said he was concerned Brock’s estimate of $30,000 for legal fees for eminent domain was too low.
The additional costs include expenses that were not included in the original 28E agreement from the county, including acquiring a lagoon site and condemnation proceedings.
The Washington County Board of Supervisors approved the plan for the Richmond lagoon system after Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) cited the county for water quality violations. A recent test showed that the water quality in Richmond remains at a level for the county to be in violation. The DNR has also indicated that if the county fails to come into compliance, the DNR can fine the county as much as $10,000 a day.
RBR opposes building a lagoon system in Richmond. Members have argued that the lagoon system is not necessary to bring the unincorporated town of Richmond into compliance and that individual septic systems can be used instead.