Countdown On To Determining Future Of Water Service For Aboite

By Jeff Neumeyer

January 16, 2013 Updated Jan 16, 2013 at 7:31 PM EDT

ALLEN COUNTY, Ind. (www.incnow.tv) --- Six days until Fort Wayne City Council holds a public hearing on a major issue, whether city government is prepared to move ahead with buying the rights to serve thousands of water customers in Aboite Township.

The current provider of service is arguing that the city is going too fast on this, and city utility customers are the ones who could get hurt.

That's what Aqua Indiana officials are saying.

But Mayor Tom Henry's staff members believe the quicker they can start pumping water into more Aboite homes, the better off everybody will be.

This past summer, crews made connections to pump city water to Aqua properties in Aboite, because during the drought the company couldn't keep up with customer demands for water.

The city says more than 1,400 Aqua Southwest ratepayers have signed petitions, asking for city service.

That's one reason why the Henry administration is asking city council to approve condemnation of the utility area, so the city can get an appraisal to see if it makes sense to buy the service territory.

Aqua's president says the plan could saddle current city water customers with higher bills.

" If they borrow as much money as it looks like they would to make the acquisition happen, it would be necessary to increase rates, not only for the Aboite Township persons, but also for all their customers throughout the city," said Tom Bruns.

" We don't believe in spreading the costs over the rest of the system. We believe that the system is affordable with existing rates and we believe that we can finish up the acquisition and integration without impacting rates on anyone else," said Kumar Menon, the Director of City Utilities.

The city insists that Aboite residents brought in under city utilities would see a 27 percent decrease in their water bills, and that current city customers would be better protected from rate hikes in the future, because the customer base would be expanded.

An informational meeting on the subject was set to take place Wednesday evening.

Aqua officials argue that appraisals of the utility should take place first, giving city council more guidance on whether it believes condemnation and acquisition are a good idea.

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