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RUSS Wins Two Lawsuits in June

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An organization that helps rural southeast Iowa communities build sewer systems has won two legal challenges this month.

A district court judge has ruled on a 2012 lawsuit filed in Henry County that Mount Union must pay Regional Utility Service Systems (RUSS) nearly $29,000 plus interest and other fees.

The award would cover the delinquent payments on roughly 15 accounts connected to the sewer system in the rural community.

This ruling follows a decision in another courtroom where Mahaska County's latest attemptto end its membership in RUSS was rejected.

Lee County Board Chairman Ernie Schiller, who serves as Vice Chairman of RUSS’s oversight board, said these rulings are significant for the Mount Pleasant-based organization.

"I think the ruling to maintain all ten counties in tact and with having people pay their sewer bills is a huge win."

Schiller hopes these issues are now resolved, though appeals are possible.

RUSS is still involved in another ongoing higher-profile lawsuit.

It has sued an engineering firm over the construction of a sewer system in Lee County.  The organization says the firm designed Argyle's system too small, thus the lawsuit.

Schiller said it could be months before that case is resolved.

He said it is important to note that these lawsuits involving RUSS are having a direct impact on local residents.

Schiller said the associated legal fees are the reason why the membership dues charged by RUSS have jumped drastically in recent years.

“If we can just get people to keep from suing us, it will reduce Lee County’s operational dues from $13,500 to closer to $7,000," said Schiller.  "That’s a big difference."

Lee County will start receiving a discount, though, by allowing RUSS’s three employees to become part of the county’s payroll and benefits system.

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.