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Neighbors Growing Together | Apr 23, 2014

Washington County supervisors vote against RUSS projects

Apr 24, 2013

By LINDA WENGER

Golden Triangle News Service

WASHINGTON — When Supervisor Stan Stoops realized he had voted the wrong way Tuesday on a motion to end the Regional Utility Service Systems’ (RUSS) involvement in the Rubio sanitary sewer project and said he wanted to do the motion again, Washington County Attorney Larry Brock said, “You need to pay attention to what’s going on and understand the motion.”

Stoops, who said that the beginning of the meeting that the batteries in his hearing aid had died, told Brock, “I can’t hear all the time today, Larry.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Brock said has he stood up from his front-row seat. “This is ridiculous.”

Brock then walked out of the meeting.

“Now how much credit do we give him for saying we can’t do it?” Stoops asked. “There was a time when that very man said that we could undo anything that we wanted to undo from previous supervisors. Now he’s saying we can’t even do it here! What’s with that cr**!”

Chairman Ron Bennett said, “ I don’t know the answer.”

Bennett said he thought the county attorney would advise him on what to do next, but Brock was no longer in the room.

County Treasurer Jeff Garrett told the supervisors that the motion had been denied.

“All you need is a new motion,” Garrett said.

Bennett accepted the new motion and second, then called for the voice vote.

Stoops and supervisors Jack Seward Jr. and Bob Yoder voted in favor of separating RUSS from the Rubio project, Bennett and Supervisor Steve Davis voted against the motion.

This vote came after a successful motion to separate RUSS from the Richmond sanitary sewer project on a 4-to-1 vote. Davis cast the lone vote against the motion.

Davis voted to proceed with both the Richmond and Rubio projects because many of voters in his district told him they don’t want to pay for the systems not going forward.

Last fall, RUSS’s executive director Bruce Hudson told the board of supervisors that Washington County would have to pay the expenses incurred for the projects if the projects do not move forward as planned. The supervisors also learned that the tax burden would fall solely on rural property taxpayers.

Bennett voted in favor of separating RUSS from Richmond but against doing so in Rubio.

Bennett said that the people of Rubio would have to pay twice as much for their septic systems without RUSS and the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development grant. That’s why he voted against the Rubio motion.

Stoops said that several county residents told him they don’t want to pay for RUSS’s expenses, but that they also don’t want to be involved with RUSS and are willing to pay that price.

The supervisors estimated having to pay RUSS just under $200,000 for work on the Richmond project and as much as $125,000 for Rubio.

Seward and Yoder talked about the idea of being tied to RUSS-owned systems for 40 years. Neither one supported that idea. They, along with Stoops, favored having each residential system in Richmond tested and require homeowners to improve or install a new septic system.

Yoder said that Richmond residents have said they want to fix their systems “on their own dime.” He also said he didn’t want to be tied to RUSS for 40 years, which is the length of time needed to repay a loan for Richmond’s system.

Stoops said that he thought Richmond got a “raw deal” and that the solution to the sewage problem should have been fixed with individual systems. He said some taxpayers don’t want to have to pay to cut RUSS out of its involvement, but that they do want to correct a wrong.

The audience gave the supervisors a round of applause before the meeting adjourned.

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