RUSS gives extension
Mt. PLEASANT — The Regional Utility Service Systems (RUSS) Board of Directors voted on Wednesday to give the Washington County Supervisors until April 24 to give an answer on the status of the Richmond and Rubio system project.
Jack Seward Jr., of Washington County asked the board for another 30-day extension, as he was previously asked to give the board an answer by Wednesday’s meeting.
While the members of RUSS were aware that allowing too much time for Washington County would not allow RUSS enough time to complete the project in a timely manner, they understood Seward’s desire to have a solution that the residents of Richmond would be content with.
“Jack, from a compromise perspective, could your board have a special meeting and make that decision within a week to 10 days?” asked Lee Dimmit of Jefferson County.
“We meet once a week. We don’t need a special meeting,” replied Seward.
“But can you at your next board meeting make that decision so we don’t have to wait another 30 days?” asked Dimmit.
“I can’t promise that,” said Seward. “I’ve got another meeting this week with a group of individuals from the Richmond area. I’ll see what the reception is there. And at our next regular board meeting, we will air this thing out in public so the public knows what we are considering and why we are considering it. And then I think it’s only fair to the citizens of Washington County, once those facts become public, to let the public put some input in it.
“So that’s why I say that I can’t tell you that in 10 days we are going to make a decision, because the next meeting is six days from now. Even if we talk about everything fully and completely, two more days for the public to get some input in it, I don’t think so. I don’t think that’s fair.”
“Your public doesn’t come to your board meetings?” asked Dimmit.
“Sure they do,” said Seward.
“Then you could schedule your public hearing at your board meeting. We do it all the time,” said Dimmit.
Dimmit then made a motion stating April 24 as a “hard-fast deadline for Washington County to give its decision of moving forward or not with Rubio and Richmond projects (either jointly or separately). If no response is received by said date, RUSS would look at de-obligation of the funds through USDA RD (Rural Development).”
The motion carried with Seward abstaining.
In a letter to the Washington County Board of Supervisors, the law firm of Foss, Kniken & Cochran P.C. of Fairfield, wrote that if Washington County failed to comply with the deadline, RUSS would initiate the process of separating the funds necessary for completion of the Richmond/Rubio projects from the funds associated with the Ollie project. It said that because the funding for the projects in linked, all three must progress together. De-obligation would allow the Ollie and Rubio projects to progress without Richmond.
“My purpose in writing today is to inform Washington County in writing of the negative impact the de-obligation of these funds would have on the Richmond/Rubio projects and also on the affected communities,” the letter reads.
The letter stated that the funding for the projects in Richmond, Rubio and Ollie are incorporated into a single loan and grant package from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The letter says that the Richmond project received additional grant funds due to the socioeconomic status of Ollie and Rubio. The letter also says if the funds are de-obligated and Richmond is forced to procure individual funding, it is unlikely that the USDA would approve a smaller amount of funding. The letter said this would mean higher indebtedness for the project and higher rates for the users.
David Hotle contributed to this article