The Ottumwa Courier

January 18, 2013

RUSS leaders say Wapello County can’t leave

Supervisors have been trying to get out of agreement since 2010

CINDY TOOPES
Courier Staff Writer

OTTUMWA — Sign up once, and you’re a member forever.

That’s the belief of the Wapello County Board of Supervisors. The board joined the Regional Utility Service Systems (RUSS) 14 years ago, but now they want out. RUSS leaders say Wapello County cannot leave.

RUSS is a 28E organization created in 1999 to provide smaller incorporated and unincorporated communities with sewer systems.

Supervisor Greg Kenning said they’re “still attempting to get out of RUSS,” an issue that goes back to 2010.

“We’re still trying to get out of the agreement, and RUSS keeps saying we can’t leave,” he said. “We haven’t paid dues since 2010.”

Kenning noted that neighboring Davis County dropped out of RUSS about a year before Wapello County did.

“Now RUSS has determined the Davis County departure was improper,” Kenning said. “RUSS sent Davis County a bill and told them their procedure was improper.”

Two other counties left, but RUSS leadership said the withdrawal wasn’t official, and both counties are still considered RUSS members.

Kenning said Wapello County could be subject to a lawsuit if they don’t pay the dues.

“During the last election cycle, four of the supervisors on the RUSS board were beaten,” Kenning said. “Two of them were connected directly to a RUSS issue, and one lost his bid in the primary.”

Kenning said the problem is the way the 28E agreement was written.

“There was no out — you signed on for the duration,” he said. “RUSS has added counties and only subtracted one, and that was done improperly.”

Bruce Hudson, the executive director of RUSS, said he wants the public to remember that Wapello County was one of the founding members.

“Maybe they’re not the current board, but their thinking is there in putting the organization together,” he said. “Wapello County is one of the six counties that formed RUSS.”

Hudson also said that when a county wants out, that action leaves the other member counties holding the bag.

“If a member county doesn’t pay, then the burden goes to those who are paying,” he said.

Hudson also fears not having a sewer system in rural portions of southern Iowa will mean an increase in hepatitis and hookworm problems as the water supply shrinks.