Residents Urge State to Disapprove Water Rate Hike

By Rachel Martin

May 31, 2012 Updated Oct 18, 2013 at 10:06 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – Residents say they don't want a higher water bill, and urged state officials not to approve the 40 percent rate hike at a public hearing Thursday night.

The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC), and the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) held a public hearing Thursday night to collect public feedback on the 40 percent water rate hike. The Fort Wayne Board of Public Works and City Council have already approved the increase, but it still needs approval from the state.

Residents say they already have a hard time keeping up with rising costs and they feel they City could find other ways to compensate for water main breaks and operating costs. Fort Wayne City Utilities officials say water main repair and replacement is the main reason for the rate hike. A 40 percent increase would add $7 a month to water bills over three years, beginning in 2013.

Carl Jackson of Fort Wayne, says to compensate for all the rising costs he's been trying to conserve, but says saving water and energy is not having the same effect on his wallet. He thinks the City should try to conserve as well.

“[It] Seems to me that it should be time for them to be tightening their belt just a little bit also because the economy's bad. This is a bad time to be asking for a 40 percent increase. An increase? Maybe, yes. Forty percent? No! I think that’s way too much,” said Jackson. “They’re always asking us to conserve on our utilities. It seems, though, when we do that they always need money for something else so you can’t get your bill down. It doesn’t matter what you do.”

Jackson, along with many others who spoke out, say they feel the City could get the money another way, and don’t understand why the problem has gone on for so long. They say they feel the City could put in more of an effort to fix the water mains.

“They know these things are coming, they know that they’re going to have to do improvements,” said Jackson. “I don’t think they fix them right when they fix them. Why don’t they do the work they need to do at the time?”

“They’re saying they have all these water main breaks. Do a little bit more than just repair a break at the time. Put in a new section of pipe. They’ve got the ground open, they’ve got the equipment there, why not just do a good section of it while you’re there?”

City officials expect the rate hike to generate $12M in revenue, $5M of which will go towards water main replacement. City officials say there’s 1,160 miles of water mains throughout Fort Wayne, some dating back to 1920. Their goal is to fix 12 miles of pipe every year for the next five years.

Jackson says if the state approves the water rate hike, he’ll just have to “pay it. I guess there’s no other option. We’ll just go on, and just like always we’ll try to conserve.”

The OUCC and IURC are will accept public input until July 6. On July 13, the state will hold an evidentiary hearing to review all comments. City officials say they hope for approval from the state by January.

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