Oskaloosa Water To File Petition
Oskaloosa, Iowa – The ongoing battle between the Oskaloosa Water Department Board of Trustees and the Oskaloosa City Council will continue.
The Oskaloosa Water Dept. Board of Trustees voted 2-1 to file a petition with the Mahaska County District Court in an effort for the board to retain Errin Keltner in his current position as a trustee, but the validity of that decision is being questioned by those in city government.
Keltner has been fighting a removal order by Oskaloosa Mayor Dave Krutzfeldt, which was affirmed last Monday with a 6-1 vote by the Oskaloosa City Council to remove Keltner.
Krutzfeldt said during the city council meeting that Keltner had done nothing illegal. In the removal letter, Krutzfeldt stated, “My decision to order your removal from service is based upon the lack of communication and cooperation we had in trying to make our operations more efficient and effective. This, coupled with the budgeted multi-year water rate increases, leads me to believe a change in the Water Board is necessary.”
During Friday’s meeting, Settimi opened up discussion saying, “Had some feedback from the community about it, [board resistance to letter], most of it negative. They really don’t understand why we’re going through this process. Why, unfortunately, we’re wasting the ratepayers and taxpayers money.”
The Water Board expressed concern that by Mayor Krutzfeldt removing one of its members, the Board would then end up political in nature. “I’m just disappointed that we’re at this point. I think it’s a tremendous waste of money, waste of time.”
“I think we’ve come to a point where we need to put ourselves in a position where we can continue to have the board as it stands and try to work through this with the City Council and the Mayor,” Settimi said.
“I would agree with Pete,” said Keltner, who continued his role as trustee at Friday’s meeting.
“I look at it as a business; we’re running a business,” said Settimi, who is concerned because he believes decisions “are made by a business, not a political body that has constituents and other folks they need to please.”
“I hate to spend money to defend myself in something that I don’t know. I don’t really think we need to defend ourselves, but again, I’d hate for it to be on my watch that the board was dissolved and we were put into a position that is probably not determined by best practices, and by the study was the wrong thing to do,” stated Settimi. The study he is referring to is the PFM Group study on ways the City of Oskaloosa and the Oskaloosa Water Department could potentially share costs. “And that is for the City to take over the Water Department. Whether it be by dissolving the water board or by continually selecting to remove and add people, depending on who may be in the mayor’s seat or city council seat.”
Trustee Joe Ryan agreed with Setimmi that when he’s approached by individuals, “They come up to me, ‘What’s going on?’”
“It hit me last week when we approved some of our bills that we’re also spending our time working… and money, water users money, that I don’t think is probably the best use. It’s probably not how this organization is suppose to be spending the money from the water users,” said Ryan.
“There’s a lot of things that can be handled if you just sit across the table and carry on a conversation. I still think, as I’ve mentioned before, I think there’s a lack of communication. I think there’s miscommunication, and I think a bunch of them together are causing a lot of problems. That if we just sit down and talk about it, I’m sure we can come to some resolve,” Ryan said.
The Board of Trustees attorney, Richard Malm, said that filing the petition could cost a few thousand dollars. If the matter is pursued further in the courts, it could cost the Water Board anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000 in legal fees, dependent upon how the matter is handled in court.
In the end, the Water Board of Trustees voted 2-1 to file the petition with the Mahaska County District Court to fend off the removal of Keltner. Trustee Joe Ryan voted against the motion.
On Saturday, Pete Setimmi told Oskaloosa News that Errin Keltner had informed him that Keltner would pay the initial fees for filing the petition at the clerk of courts office.