‘This check is cut’
MT. PLEASANT —After a 45-minute discussion about terms and a call to the Washington County Attorney, Jack Seward Jr., Washington County Supervisor, turned a check over to the Regional Utility Service Systems (RUSS) to pay for the debt from the Richmond/Rubio project with no “strings” or terms attached to the check.
At the beginning of the discussion on the agenda item at Wednesday’s RUSS board meeeting, Seward told the board he had the check in the amount of $386,194.43 and was willing to turn it over, as long as RUSS agreed to terms that Washington County had come up with.
“This check is cut and all you have to do to take it and add it into your bank account is sign this little piece of paper that says you are receiving it, but that if we find out that there is anything that has been approved that was inappropriate or unreasonable that we should be able to argue to get it back,” Seward told the board.
RUSS executive director expressed concern over Washington County’s terms in that there was no specific time frame for Washington County to make the claims, that the invoices in question should be made known to the board and that it should be noted that the check does not cover all of the up-to-date interest.
“I think those three things are important to consider,” said Hudson. “If I am going to sign off on something I think it is important to look at it. I will sign it if you all — the board — want me to sign it.”
“My response to that is that from the start of this my position representing Washington County is that we would pay, honor our obligations, for everything that was reasonable and appropriate,” said Seward. “This check represents good faith and everything that I think satisfies our obligations. Some of those things in the invoices that we questioned were some things that look like they may have been double billed. There may be a complete and good explanation for that because we just haven’t sat down to do that.
“I hesitate to sit down and spend another I-don’t-know-how-many hours and add that much more money to the project when it is only going to be a relatively small amount. How much more do we spend just to argue about stuff?” Seward continued.
Several of the other board members expressed concern that there was no definitive time period presented with Washington County’s terms and that extensions have already been given to the county to look over the invoices.
“First of all,” said Ernie Schiller of Lee County, “you know what the deadline has been.”
“Yep,” replied Seward.
“And we have even extended it for you guys graciously because I think the board wants to remain friendly and get this resolved,” said Schiller. “I guess from my perspective, we have given you ample time to do things. We gave you an extension because we wanted to make sure we remained friendly because we are all here working for the better good.
“The second thing I want to say is about improper billing,” continued Schiller. “Things are audited every year. And the thing with the USDA is audited and I am sure anything that could be double billed has probably already been scrutinized to the Nth degree. Now, maybe it is not to your satisfaction, but I think from our satisfaction I can’t imagine anything you would find if you had more time or even an unlimited amount of time to go through things.”
After a lengthy part of the discussion, the board took a break so that Seward could call the Washington County attorney and see what could be done about the terms to receive the check.
Upon resuming the meeting, the discussion ended with Seward telling the board they could have the check with no terms, but that he wasn’t happy about it.
“What I am going to get you guys to understand right now is that I am going to deliver the check because I don’t think the argument and what it is going to cost us by withholding the check some more is going to be worth it. I am handing this check over to you today and taking the receipt with the notation made that I protest your conditions,” said Seward.
The next RUSS meeting will be on Dec. 11, at 1 p.m. at the Henry County Emergency Management building.