News Feature | July 13, 2017

Water Utility Sale Under Protest In Indiana

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

A proposal to sell the water utility in Charlestown, IN, is coming under intense criticism.

“After decades of problems with brown water, the City of Charlestown struck a deal [in July] to sell its water system,” WDRB reported.

The city council voted 4-to-1 this month to sell the city water utility. Indiana American Water has agreed to a $13.4 million deal, WLKY reported.

Critics say the deal will significantly raise rates for Charlestown customers.

“For most customers on city water, that means rates will more than double. This will affect 2,900 customer's water bills, and it means most will jump by $26 per month,” WDRB reported.

Local officials sought to explain how rates will change. “An average 5,000-gallon user currently pays $18 per month. He said rates will increase to $44 monthly, but without the sale, rates would have jumped to $53,” WDRB reported, citing Mayor Bob Hall.

Hall advocated in favor of the deal: "The math of it's a no-brainer. You do the math, and it's the right thing to do."

Ratepayers report frequent water discoloration, which city officials say is caused by excessive manganese in the city pipelines, WLKY reported. Indiana American Water “has pledged to spend $7.2 million over the next five years in improvements,” the report said.

The group No Outsourcing Water (NOW) opposes the deal, and is working on a signature campaign that could trigger a city-wide vote on the plan, according to News and Tribune.

Proponents of the sale say the buyer will be able to improve water quality and infrastructure.

Residents are also appealing to state regulators in an attempt to fight the sale.

“In a complaint filed with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission — which ultimately will be responsible for final approval of the sale — Charlestown ratepayers asked the commission to investigate and temporarily bar the acquisition. Among the reasons, the complaint said it was ‘unclear’ what became of $1.75 million previously committed toward water system upgrades,” The Courier-Journal reported.

To read more about how utilities interact with ratepayers visit Water Online’s Consumer Outreach Solutions Center.