Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 2, 2014

RUSS employees report threats from homeowners

By DIANE VANCE | Sep 16, 2013

Jefferson County Board of Supervisors chairman Lee Dimmitt said the sewer rate increase in Mount Union detailed in a story published Friday in The Ledger was not popular with anyone.

Dimmitt is the county’s representative on the Rural Utility Service System board and said a judge should be hearing today an injunction submitted six weeks ago to allow RUSS employees to place shut-off valves on Mount Union sewer systems of residents who have not paid their bills.

“We had to increase rates in Mount Union because it is required by law to have each community with RUSS services to pay the community’s costs,” said Dimmitt. “We can’t take money paid by one community to pay for another community.”

Fewer than 20 residents in Mount Union have not been paying for RUSS services, creating a $864.45 loss each month, according to executive director of RUSS, Bruce Hudson.

Everyone agreed it is punishing the Mount Union residents who are paying their bills to have an increase, but there was not another solution.

A Jefferson County resident Jack Ritz asked Dimmitt today why there wasn’t another solution and why were some Mount Union residents not paying for services.

“RUSS employees were bodily threatened if they were to come into the town to install shut-off valves,” said Dimmitt. “The Henry County sheriff’s department won’t accompany employees without this injunction from the court.

“If the court rules in favor of RUSS, we hope to be able to rescind the increase.”

Dimmit said the Mount Union mayor had been against the project and wanted the town to own the system.

“His position is the 28E agreement isn’t valid, but it is,” said Dimmitt. “And shut-off valves were not installed during the original installation of sewer services because it’s not allowed by the USDA grant guidelines.”

Jefferson County supervisors approved three supplemental agreements with Calhoun Burns & Associates Inc. of West Des Moines, the contractor working on two bridges on Ash Avenue and a box culvert on Mahogany Boulevard.

“The portion of Mahogany Avenue there is a Farm-to-Market road,” said County Engineer Scott Cline. “This work will bring all three bridges up to legal load limits.”

Cline said the double box culvert work on the gravel portion of Brookville Road is nearing completion.

“The contractor is doing some rock work on the approaches, then still has seeding and fencing to finish. I expect that will be completed by the end of this week,” he said.

The supervisors have decided once again to offer the former county attorney office at 117 W. Broadway Ave. for sale. A public hearing to set a sale is at 9:30 a.m. at the regular supervisors meeting Sept. 30.

The county will list the property with an area real estate agent after the public hearing.

“The county doesn’t need to hold on to empty property,” said supervisor Dick Reed.

Dimmitt said he added a medical examiner’s reimbursement claim to the meeting agenda because he wanted the other two supervisors to be aware of the reimbursement.

“This didn’t need to be approved by the board,” said Dimmitt. “For years, we tried to get a local doctor to be our county medical examiner and no one wants the job of receiving calls any time of night and having that responsibility. We contract with Wapello County for ME services. Mark Hagist is the medical examiner. He’s not a doctor; a doctor is also employed to actually do the medical exam.

“We’re in line with the budget to pay this reimbursement,” said Dimmitt. “It’s for body bags and a portion is for services. It’s a little hard to budget, because no one can predict how many people will die in a year.”

The supervisors approved two new deputies, Jacob Riley and Justin Smith, hired to fill two vacancies in the sheriff’s department.

Cline asked the supervisors to approve Trenton Holtkamp as a new-hire in the Secondary Roads Department to fill one of two vacancies. The supervisors approved.

“We went through the process of selecting candidates and interviews, and selected Trenton,” said Cline. “He starts today as an Equipment Operator I, and will receive training for other areas. He already has a Class A commercial drivers license.”

Supervisor Becky Schmitz attended two meetings about preschool and provided copies of the annual report to the other supervisors about the coalition between Jefferson and Keokuk counties.

“We also have a coalition with Iowa County and they offer early childhood development classes to their employees through Kirkwood Community College,” said Schmitz. “Daycare providers and preschool employees can earn certification through these classes.

“We pay for the classes no matter how many people attend. We’re discussing providing these classes through Iowa Communications Network (via an online computer for distance education) to our employees and people in Jefferson and Keokuk counties, too.”

Schmitz also attended a 2.5-hour hearing Thursday for Jefferson County to be a stand-alone region in mental health care. She said the county should know in 30 days whether the request is granted.

“I thought Becky and Pat McAvan (assistant county attorney) did an excellent job,” said Dimmitt.

Dimmitt said he attended the Substance Abuse Awareness meeting Sept. 9.

“The commission has applied for one of the RAGBRAI grants,” he said. “We all agree education is the best outreach we can have and the commission is looking to take a program to the elementary school level.”

RAGBRAI grant awards will be announced Saturday evening during this year’s final Live on the Square concert in Central Park.

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