County looks for answers from EIRUSS

Board of Supervisors
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     The Jones County Supervisors met with representatives from EIRUSS (Eastern Iowa Regional Utility Service Systems) during their Sept. 29 board meeting. The purpose of the discussion centered on the financial status of both the Fairview wastewater system and the Center Junction water and wastewater systems.

     Matt Specht and Mark Schneider from EIRUSS were both present to field questions from the supervisors and update them on both systems.

     “Both Jones County systems continues to lose money,” said Specht.

     EIRUSS is seeking suggestions or assistance from Jones County “to help dig us out of the negative trend.”

     Specht said they do not want to have to raise rates again to help cover their losses.

     “We don’t feel we can raise rates again to get us through this,” he said.

     EIRUSS has reached out to Sen. Chuck Grassley’s office regarding the USDA funding the Fairview project received early on. Specht said there has been no help on this front.

     “There are a lot of issues with the Fairview system,” he added. “The pumps are not the greatest quality.”

     Both Specht and Schneider said the issues are not problems caused by the users of the system, but rather the equipment.

     While EIRUSS received a 40-year USDA fix-loan to fund the project, the equipment is owned and maintained by EIRUSS.

     Supervisor Wayne Manternach asked whether the USDA was contacted regarding the failed equipment.

     “Yes, and we’ve received no answer, no help,” said Schneider. “Our only option is to extend our loan, but that won’t change the interest rates.”

     Supervisor Lloyd Eaken, who sits on the EIRUSS board, contacted Sen. Grassley and Sen. Joni Ernst regarding the situation. He said he received the same answer as provided by the USDA.

     “There’s nothing they could do,” Eaken said. “And I contacted them as both a user (of the Fairview system) and a member of board of supervisors and EIRUSS.”

     Schneider explained that when the USDA funds a project like this, it is the USDA that determines a reasonable rate users should pay per month, as well as determining operation and maintenance costs.

     “We were told the pumps meet the specs at a 20-year life,” noted Schneider. “But they’re only lasting a couple of years (before they have to be replaced again). So we’ve raised user rates to cover the cost to replace the pumps so often. And now we can’t keep up with it.”

     “We don’t feel we can put much more on the residents out there,” added Specht. “We need assistance getting us going in the right direction.”

     The board informed Specht and Schneider that the time to request county funding is during their budget season in early 2021.

     Supervisor Wayne Manternach asked whether the USDA was privy to the costs associated with the Fairview system.

     “They get our financials and audit every year,” answered Schneider.

     EIRUSS has 68 users on both the Fairview and Center Junction system.

     To assist EIRUSS, the board approved a Privacy Release Authorization Form for Rep. Abby Finkenaur to investigate the USDA funding of the Fairview sanitary sewer system.


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