RUSS board talks ‘exit strategy’
MT. PLEASANT (GTNS) – “I don’t know what the answer is, but I think we need to start thinking about it,” said Bob Waugh, supervisor from Van Buren County in regards to the possibility of letting counties out of the Regional Utility Service Systems.
While the discussion about letting counties exit RUSS was not an agenda item at the March 19 meeting, it was a topic that several of the board members felt quite strongly about.
Several of the supervisors, including Waugh and Jack Seward Jr. of Washington County, had asked prior to the meeting that an agenda item be added to discuss finding a way to allow counties to be let out of RUSS. According to Seward, the potential agenda item was rejected “due to advice of counsel.”
“Maybe this isn’t the proper time or whatever, but I know with our emails that our counsel has said that they don’t want to talk about letting anyone out of this organization,” said Waugh during the public comments portion of the meeting. “I appreciate that advice and stuff, but I think we do need to start the discussion of what we are going to do.
“I think we are just beating each others’ heads against the wall at this point,” Waugh continued. “Maybe I am wrong, and nothing against Greg [Kenning, Wapello County Supervisor], but with his ‘no’ votes today, I think it shows you that we are not going to have the full cooperation that we are going to need for this organization. We don’t need to mention specific counties, but if anybody wanted out, what are we going to do?”
Since returning to meetings in February after being told in arbitration preceedings that Wapello County is unable to leave RUSS, Kenning has consistently voted in opposition to the majority vote.
It was stated during the meeting that the reason the discussion did not appear on the agenda was that it raised the risk of someone saying something at the meeting that could be used against the organization in court, as RUSS still has pending legal issues with Mahaska County.
“The issue we have to keep in mind here is that, in reality, we are in litigation with Mahaska County,” stated Lee Dimmit of Jefferson County. “Until such time as that is resolved, any public conversations that you have can and will be used against you.”
Not all of the supervisors at the meeting agreed with following the counsel’s advice.
“As far as anything you say being used against you, the whole idea here is to find a way to solve a problem,” said Seward. “If they want to use my words against me to solve the problem, then even better. And if not, then we are in the position, in my mind, of forcing more court action.”
The board also:
• Voted to table the travel/meal reimbursement policy and 2014 meal allowance policy until further research can be done.
• Agreed to revise the minutes from the February meeting to provide more detail and include the wording of each motion passed.
The next RUSS meeting will be at 1 p.m. April 16 at the Henry County Emergency Management building.