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February 24, 2014

Major water provider seeks rate increase; Georgetown officials gauging effect on residents

Indiana American Water asking for 9.8 percent increase

GEORGETOWN — Indiana American Water has filed a request with the state that would allow the company to increase rates by 9.8 percent for consumers.

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission hasn’t set a date for a hearing, but area communities who get water from Indiana American and bill residents are preparing for possible water rate hikes.

“What our council will have to decide is whether they’re going to pass [the increase] on to customers, or try to absorb it,” said Georgetown Public Works Director Jim Reynolds.

He alerted the Georgetown Town Council of the possible rate hike last week. Though Georgetown has a contract with Ramsey Water Co., some of the town’s water is still supplied by Indiana American. Georgetown acts as an independent water company which purchases water and bills its customers.

Reynolds said a Ramsey Water Co. representative contacted Georgetown to inform the town of the potential rate hike. The rate increase hasn’t been finalized, and the IURC will hold public hearings on Indiana American’s request prior to making a ruling. However, since Georgetown independent, Reynolds said it is not regulated by the IURC by ordinance.

The state must rule on the request within 300 days of the petition.

The average water bill in Georgetown is about $75 a month. Rates jumped by almost 60 percent in Georgetown in 2012, as the council approved the increase after citing a lack of needed rate hikes in the past.

Town officials also defended the rate increase, which equated to about $21 a month for the average customer as a way to fund improvements to Georgetown’s water distribution system.

If Indiana American is allowed to adjust its rates, more customers will likely feel the trickle down effect beyond Georgetown residents.

Indiana American provides service to the bulk of Jeffersonville and New Albany customers. Indiana American last petitioned for new rates in May 2011, and received permission from IURC in June 2012.

Indiana American will have invested about $221 million in infrastructure upgrades statewide between 2011 and 2015, according to the company.

“Since our last request, we have continued to implement efficiencies and best practices throughout our business to reduce our operating and maintenance expenses over the last four years,” Indiana American President Alan DeBoy stated in a news release.

The company touted that the improvements will reduce operating and maintenance expenses by more than $7 million from 2010 to 2015.

“The communities we serve rely on us to provide reliable, quality water and wastewater service to support the local economy and to provide a high quality of life for residents,” DeBoy said. “These investments will help ensure we are able to keep that commitment to the health and prosperity of our customers and community partners in Indiana.”

The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor — which represents ratepayers in rate increase cases before the IURC — is reviewing Indiana American’s request. More information on the case, including a chance for consumers to respond in writing, can be found here: http://www.in.gov/oucc/2654.htm

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