Mayor Henry Working to Condemn Aqua Indiana in Southwest Fort Wayne

By Scott Sarvay
By Corinne Rose

November 15, 2012 Updated Dec 5, 2013 at 4:18 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (www.incnow.tv) – Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry says he's been patient long enough -- and he's moving forward to condemn Aqua Indiana in Aboite Township.

Mayor Henry says he's tried to negotiate with Aqua Indiana for the past four to five years about what he calls a public health and public safety issue.

Henry says Aqua leaders have refused to negotiate with the city about providing adequate water pressure and quality to its customers in Aboite.

"We need to provide our citizens an opportunity to save money, to increase water pressure, the reliability, to increase efficiency," Henry says.

So by the end of the year, he will ask city council to approve a measure to move forward to condemn and take over the beleagured utility, much like it did with Aqua's north Fort Wayne operations in 2008.

If the move is successful, city water would flow through the existing pipes and water towers, but Aqua's wells and pump facilities would not be used.

Mayor Henry and Aqua customers hooked up to city water in an emergency move because of this summer's drought say it's time. 20 neighborhood associations in Aboite Township have sent Mayor Henry petitions asking to be permanently hooked up to city water instead of Aqua Indiana.

Hank Mazolla lives in the Falls of Beaver Creek. "You have to experience it to believe it. It's atrocious. The first thing that gets you is the smell, and then the odor, the taste. And then all your faucets and sinks are going to be corroded," Mazolla says.

City Council President Tom Smith says he fully expects council to approve the mayor's request to move forward.

And State Senate President Pro Tem David Long, who asked the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to investigate Aqua's pressure issues, said as long as the city does not charge customers a surcharge or fee to help pay for the condemnation process, he supports it.

The city did not charge Aqua's north customers during that process and has no plans to charge southwest customers, either.

Mayor Henry estimates Aqua customers in Aboite could save up to $225 a year in their water bills.

The Indianapolis-based head of Aqua says the utility's upgrades over the past year serve the customers well, and he thinks the area would be served better if Aqua can work with the city, especially in providing waste water services.

The city does not agree.

Mayor Henry emphasized during a news conference that the City has done everything it can to reach an agreement with Aqua Indiana but a suitable agreement for providing quality water service to residents in southwest Fort Wayne hasn’t been reached.

“We have been patient with Aqua Indiana, but now is the time to take action. This is about public health and public safety. Those issues cannot be compromised. We must ensure that residents and public safety officials have access to a water supply that is dependable and can meet the water pressure demands of our growing community,” said Mayor Henry.

During this past summer’s drought, Fort Wayne City Utilities assisted Aqua Indiana by providing water to approximately 1,300 customers due to Aqua Indiana’s inability to meet water needs and demands.

To date, more than 20 neighborhood associations served by Aqua Indiana have separately submitted petitions requesting a change to City Utilities.

Aqua Indiana currently serves 12,000 water customers in southwest Fort Wayne, with 70% of those customers residing inside City limits. By switching to water provided by City Utilities, the average Aqua Indiana customer in southwest Fort Wayne would save between $160-$220 annually.

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