DNR to end $50,000 annual funding for RUSS
Jefferson County Supervisor Lee Dimmitt said the arbitration ruling that Wapello and Mahaska counties cannot withdraw from the 28E agreements signed with the Regional Utilities Service System means the counties will have to continue paying $8,000 annual dues.
Dimmitt said the arbitration panel didn’t have much latitude because the law says the counties cannot take action that would be detrimental to the bondholder.
“Those bonds are out there for 40 years,” he said. “RUSS itself could dissolve and the counties would not be liable for the bond debt, but signing the 28E agreement means the counties are bound by the agreement while RUSS exists.”
RUSS also received notification the Department of Natural Resources’ Utility Management Organization, which has been funding RUSS $50,000 annually intends to discontinue funding.
“It isn’t only RUSS,” Dimmitt said. “It’s statewide. I think this action also is detrimental to the bondholder.”
RUSS has called an emergency meeting for Thursday to discuss DNR’s decision and has invited the U.S. Department of Agriculture to attend, said Dimmitt. The meeting is tentatively scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday at RUSS’s regular meeting place, Henry County Emergency Management Building, 900 W. Washington St. in Mt. Pleasant.
“We’d have to raise user rates a lot to make up a $50,000 annual shortfall,” said Dimmitt.
He said RUSS also would meet Jan. 23, for continuing mediation with Mount Union, prior to a 9 a.m. Feb. 4, trial start in the Henry County Courthouse between RUSS and Mount Union.
Supervisor chairman Dick Reed asked County Engineer Scott Cline about the summer Ash Avenue two-bridge replacement project.
“I had a comment from a farmer who owns land between the two bridges,” said Reed. “If both bridges are worked on at the same time, how would he access his land?”
The board of supervisors had previously discussed it could be cost-effective to have both bridges under construction at the same time by one contractor.
Cline said there could be options he could talk about with the farmer, including a low water crossing.
In other news, Dimmitt said he had met with Tracy Vance, Cline and assistant county attorney Pat McAvan about Heartland Co-op’s plan for a grain storage elevator at Nutmeg Avenue and Highway 34.
“French-Reneker [Associates Inc.] can handle the county’s needs for surveys,” he said. “Melanie [Carlson, French-Reneker engineer] will attend next week’s supervisors meeting.
“We’ve discussed that working with one entity and keeping the work local is good for the county.”
County resident Jack Ritz asked during public comments why the new ambulance is a mini van, pictured in The Ledger Wednesday.
Supervisor Becky Schmitz, who serves on the Ambulance Service Agency board, said Midwest Ambulance told the board it had overspent on the previous ambulance purchase.
“On advice from the ambulance service, the board was told we didn’t need that big of ambulance, the smaller ones ride more comfortable and are more cost-effective,” said Schmitz.
Ritz also asked where it would get serviced, as it is a Mercedes, (judging from the photo in the newspaper), he said.
“Will it have to go to Cedar Rapids or Iowa City for service?” Ritz asked.
Schmitz said he had a good concern and she would find out.
The board of supervisors is meeting with individual departments to review fiscal year 2015 budget requests this month.