Mt. Union residents owe RUSS $19,600 in past-due monthly bills
By TRISHA PHELPS
Mt. Pleasant News
According to officials of the Regional Utility Service Systems (RUSS), the City of Mt. Union is $19,600 past due on its residential billing accounts, and RUSS has decided it is time to do something about it.
According to Bruce Hudson, RUSS’ attorney filed the paperwork with the Henry County courthouse on Dec. 26, 2012, for legal action against Mt. Union.
RUSS has filed a petition for specific performance against the city. The petition would enforce the 28E agreement that Mt. Union had previously agreed to, but did not uphold.
While admitting that he has a limited legal knowledge, Hudson explained the petition to the RUSS board. “My understanding is not legal, but (the petition) requires them — their city board — to fulfill the obligation in the 28E agreement,” said Hudson at the Jan. 9 RUSS board meeting. “This would indemnify any 60-day-plus past-due accounts.”
The $19,600 comes from past due sewer fees of users in Mt. Union, some dating back to 2010, according to Kathy Dye, RUSS finance and office manager. “Some did make that first payment in 2010, and then just never paid after that,” Dye said.
Of the 62 users in Mt. Union, 17 users are not paying their sewer fees.
The sewer fees go towards operation, maintenance and to help pay back the USDA loan that was used to build the system.
The past-due sewer fees going unpaid have caused financial difficulties for RUSS, and the board could find no other alternative than to move forward with legal action against the City of Mt. Union.
“I’ve been trying to have a resolution since day one that I’ve been here, but you can only go so far. We have got to pay bills,” said Hudson. “It all comes down to the city authorities not following their agreement.”
Mt. Union is not the only city that has past-due accounts with RUSS. RUSS has also been working on getting the City of Franklin’s balance up to date.
Franklin’s past-due balance of $19,914.10 stems from a project in August of 2009 in which the city signed a 28E agreement with RUSS to provide services, and later backed out on.
According to Dye, RUSS went into partnership with Franklin and hired an engineer to do a Preliminary Engineering Report (PER) on the project. After receiving the information from the PER, the city decided to go in a different direction. According to the 28E agreement Franklin signed, the city would have to pay for RUSS’ services up until they backed out.
The city of Franklin did not hold up their end of the 28E, according to Dye.
“When I came on board, we were working with the city of Franklin to put in a sewer system. They elected to go in another direction in solving their own problems,” explained Hudson. “The debt that has incurred was from that system.”
While a debt over $19,000 is a lot of money, most of the money owed is for the engineers’ services.
“Of the $19,914.10, $18,642 is what is owed to the engineers for the project. The remainder is the expenses that RUSS incurred,” explained Dye.
Hudson has been working to settle the debt with Franklin.
“I have been, in the last several months, writing back and forth to the City of Franklin and a few months ago got a letter from their chair and they acknowledged the debt. I have now hired an attorney to try and settle it,” said Hudson.
The RUSS board also welcomed several new supervisors at their Jan. 6 meeting.
The new supervisors are as follows; Des Moines County, Jim Cary; Henry County, Greg Moeller; Jefferson County, Lee Dimmitt; Mahaska County, Mike Vader Molen; Van Buren County, Bob Waugh; and Washington County, Jack Seward, Jr. The supervisors from Keokuk County, Lee County, Louisa County, and Wapello County remained unchanged on the board.