2 denounce water rate increase at hearing
Of five people in the audience, only two spoke out at a public hearing Monday against Fort Wayne City Utilities’ proposed rate increase.
Speaking before members of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, resident Neil Warner said the proposed increase will impact low-income and retired families the hardest and in a way that is unsustainable. The increase is expected to help City Utilities officials combat large numbers of water main breaks throughout the city.
No one spoke in favor of the increase.
“I believe those are repairs that should have been done all along and not financed through a 35 percent rate increase,” Warner said.
City Utilities’ plan calls for an increase of 5.8 percent annually over the next five years starting in 2019. If the rate hike is approved by the state, the first increase would be about 1.43 in 2020; 1.57 in 2022 and $1.67 in 2023.
Instead of a five-year rate increase, Warner said he’d rather the necessary money come out of the city’s Legacy Fund in the form of a loan. The Legacy Fund consists of money generated by the lease and sale of Fort Wayne’s old power utility and is typically reserved for selected large-scale capital projects.
“A rate increase is warranted, probably, to pay for some of these,” Warner said. “But I believe that the percentage of rate increase is higher than what most utility customers should be forced to pay.”
Warner also said he was disappointed that Monday’s hearing was held at Homestead High School, a place far from the city center and without reliable bus service. That may have been part of the reason so few residents attended, Warner said.
“I don’t believe the city of Fort Wayne was represented either from a councilman standpoint or from a Fort Wayne resident,” Warner said. “The location should have been more centrally located.”
The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor, which represents ratepayers, has not taken a position on the proposal.
The deadline to submit written comments to the counselor is Oct. 23.
Comments can be made online at www.IN.gov/OUCC. Click the “Contact Us” link. Or, email comments to uccinfo@oucc.IN.gov. Comments can also be mailed to Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor, Consumer Services Staff, 115 W. Washington St. Suite 1500 South, Indianapolis, IN 46204
The IURC is expected to rule on the requested increase in the spring.