By MATT KOESTERS
Unhappy water utility customers filled the Sellersburg Town Council chambers on Monday, but they left content after the elimination of a proposed administrative fee.
The council waived the $55 fee that the Sellersburg Water Company planned to charge former Riverside Water Company customers. The Riverside Water Company customers became Sellersburg customers when the town acquired the company.
“There was no communication from the Riverside Water Company to their customers about the sale. Nothing,” said Town Council President Paul Rhodes. “So when they received correspondence from us after the sale was complete, it was a complete shock to them, and they complained about the $55.
“We took a look at our ordinance,” he added. “We took a look at how the litigation and the sale was accomplished, and we decided that the $55 would not be assessed to them. However, they are going to come on and pay our rates for water.”
Riverside customers learned of the administrative fee in a letter sent by the town in mid-December. Resident Glen Pitzer got his letter in the mail Dec. 24, he said.
“They were looking at us as new customers, and we weren’t really new customers,” Pitzer said. “They were taking in our whole water company, so I don’t think we really qualified as new customers, and we weren’t petitioning them to take us. They acquired us, and I think that makes a big difference.”
That’s a matter of interpretation, said Ken Alexander, the town’s municipal works director. Alexander said the town’s water company had not relied on the collection of the fees from the Riverside customers when calculating its 2014 budget.
“The council looked at it. They listened to the people that came in, and to me, they were very generous as far as siding with the customers in waiving the $55,” Alexander said.
Riverside customers will be charged in exactly the same manner as Sellersburg residents, Alexander said. The monthly rate for residential customers will be about $27 per month, he said.
Alexander said another rate increase shouldn’t be assessed for many years.
“The whole goal with the council was, we started out four years ago devising how we were going to keep the system operable to 2030,” Alexander said. “If the plan holds true, we shouldn’t see the next rate increase until sometime in the 2030s.”