State consumer rep urges rejection of water rate hike

2014-05-05T11:00:00Z 2014-05-06T09:12:04Z State consumer rep urges rejection of water rate hikeBy Keith Benman keith.benman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3326 nwitimes.com

The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor is urging state regulators to reject Indiana American Water Co.'s request for a $19.6 million increase in annual revenues and instead order a decrease.

The state consumer rep has filed its testimony with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission in opposition to the water company's request, which if implemented would lead to a 17.2 percent bill hike for Northwest Indiana customers.

Indiana Utility Consumer Counselor David Stippler said the 5.5 percent revenue reduction his office is recommending would ensure Indiana American Water would earn sufficient funds to take care of its operational and infrastructure needs, while fulfilling its obligation to provide safe and reliable service.

“The analysis by our attorneys and technical staff in this case shows that a revenue reduction is warranted,” Stippler said.

Indiana American Water's request for a $19.6 million operating revenue increase works out to a 9.8 percent increase above current revenues. The company in its testimony with the IURC asserts it needs the increase to pay for new water mains, service lines and meters. It also wants to recoup costs for its new $7.2 million water recycling facility in Gary.

Indiana American Water has until May 28 to file its rebuttal to the testimony offered by the Office of Utility Consumer Counselor with the IURC. The company will offer further rebuttal at an evidentiary hearing in the case scheduled to start June 23 in Indianapolis.

At a hearing on the rate increase before the IURC at City of Gary Common Council Chambers in April, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, Gary citizens and officials from New Chicago protested the proposed rate hike.

The requested rate increase would hike the bi-monthly bill of a typical Northwest Indiana customer using 10,000 gallons to $79.48 from the current charge of $67.81.

The rate increase would apply to direct customers of Indiana American Water in Gary, Hobart, Merrillville, Chesterton, Burns Harbor, Portage, Porter, South Haven and Winfield.

Other rate increases would apply for businesses, industries and municipalities that receive Indiana American Water's wholesale services. Those communities include Schererville, Crown Point, Lake Station, New Chicago, Ogden Dunes and Indiana Water Services Inc., which serves parts of Merrillville and Schererville.

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