RUSS directors block Mahaska County from leaving the group
By TRISHA PHELPS
Mt. Pleasant News
“Once upon a time, RUSS was made up of six counties. I would think you might be heading that direction again,” said Washington County Supervisor Jack Seward Jr., referencing the fact that three of the 10 participating counties of the Regional Utility Service Systems currently want to leave the organization.
“If Wapello County is still a member, we aren’t going to vote for a project no matter how big or small,” said Seward during the meeting Wednesday of the RUSS Board of Directors.
Wapello County wants out of the 28E agreement with RUSS, and Seward pointed out, as Mahaska County Supervisor Mike Vander Molen did last month, that without each county’s approval RUSS cannot start any new projects and therefore will be unable to expand as an organization.
Later in the meeting, the board voted 5-2 to not allow Mahaska County to leave the organization. Washington and Wapello counties voted in favor of the measure, while Jefferson, Henry, Lee, Keokuk and Louisa counties opposed.
“One of the things you are trying to do is grow this organization,” Seward said. “And I don’t understand, based on the bylaws, how this organization can grow when you have counties who don’t want to be here. I don’t understand it.”
The board has been discussing allowing Davis County to leave for two years and Mahaska County announced at last month’s board meting that they have chosen to no longer participate.
“Unless a court would rule in favor of it, Davis County, Mahaska County and Wapello County are not going to be a part of this organization,” Seward said. “I don’t think you are going to have any western counties.”
Currently, the counties on the RUSS board are Davis, Des Moines, Henry, Jefferson, Keokuk, Lee, Louisa, Mahaska, Van Buren, Wapello and Washington.
Seward noted that it would be a good idea for RUSS to start calculating a budget that did not include the dues of all of the counties.
“You can’t keep filtering our dues or administrative costs into our budget if they aren’t there. It’s a nebulous amount. It’s not going to be there,” he said. “You need to deal with reality, and reality is you are probably down to seven counties.”
“I think the next thing in line is the reality,” said Executive Director Bruce Hudson. “As I stated last month to Mahaska County, I think the question has now become ‘What is there to arbitrate?’ No one has set the precedence or the discussion on what there is to arbitrate,” Hudson added.
“If you want to grow your organization, which obviously you do, I don’t think you are going to be able to do it with the western counties still a part of it,” said Seward.
Hudson pointed out that his main concern with letting any counties out now is that the counties have already incurred a debt and that letting counties out would increase the financial burden on the remaining counties.
The next RUSS meeting is April 10 at 1 p.m. at the Henry County Emergency Management building.