RUSS gets lawsuit updates
By Trisha Phelps
GTNS News Team
MT. PLEASANT — The Regional Utilities Service System (RUSS) board meeting on Wednesday was full of updates on lawsuits.
The board members received a copy of the Mahaska and Wapello counties’ arbitration proceedings, in which it was ruled that the two counties could not withdraw from the 28E agreement they entered into with RUSS.
According to the ruling, the two counties may not withdraw from RUSS as long as revenue bond obligations are outstanding.
The ruling also stated that both counties owe RUSS past-due membership fees; Mahaska County owes RUSS $8,000 and Wapello County owes $14,000.
“In the [arbitration] panel’s opinion, it was unfortunate that Davis County was allowed to withdraw from the RUSS agreement as long as there were outstanding revenue bond obligations in that time,” stated the ruling. The ruling goes on to say that RUSS allowing Davis County to withdraw does not justify Mahaska County or Wapello County to withdraw now.
“We have to move forward in a positive way,” said Van Buren County supervisor Bob Waugh during the discussion of the ruling, noting since the arbitration proceedings are now over, it is time for the counties in RUSS to work together for the greater good.
In other litigation updates, RUSS executive director Bruce Hudson updated the board on the continuing situation with the City of Mount Union.
“This mediation is an absolute joke,” summarized Jefferson County Supervisor Lee Dimmitt.
Hudson reminded the board that even though RUSS is going through mediation with Mount Union, there will still be a trial between the two in February, which might influence the pace of the mediation.
“In other words, they have about three weeks to mediate,” remarked Ernie Schiller, Lee County Supervisor.
“The mediation is continuing,” responded Hudson. “It is just at a very, very, very slow pace. I want to be optimistic, but it is hard with the pace we are at.”
According to Hudson, RUSS received a list of requested changes from the City of Mount Union, many of which Hudson found to be unacceptable.
“There are about 15 things that they want us to change and 90 percent of them are ruled out by our bond,” said Hudson. “The bond dictates how we do things, and we couldn’t do 90 percent of these things. They want to be able to set rates, but it is in the bonds that we set the rates in order to generate enough revenue to keep it going.
“There were a couple of other things that didn’t work out either,” Hudson continued. “We can’t change our provisions, because all of our policies are set for all 10 counties. All of the communities are the same. We can’t have something different just for one community. So we sent a letter back to them and they will discuss it at their next council meeting.”
The court date for RUSS and Mount Union is Feb. 4, at 9 a.m. in the Henry County Courthouse.
The RUSS board will meet again at 1 p.m. on Feb. 5 at the Henry County Emergency Management Building.