State utility regulators will conduct an overdue, much-needed hearing examining Aqua Indiana’s water utility Friday.
The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission scheduled the hearing in response to a letter from state Senate President Pro Tem David Long, whose district includes most of the utility’s customers. Aqua Indiana customers have been complaining about the value they are getting from the utility, especially after a 75 percent rate hike in 2009.
The most recent concerns center on a significant loss of water pressure in the utility’s service area, leading to the private, for-profit utility’s connecting with Fort Wayne’s City Utilities to receive city water and help restore pressure.
Long called for the IURC to require that Aqua Indiana maintain that connection. The utility has said it will, at least for now.
State law gives the IURC broad authority to review virtually all of a private utility’s operations, including technical, financial and managerial capacity; the physical condition and capacity of its plant; and Provision of service to customers.
In extreme cases, the law permits the IURC to Provide for the acquisition of the subject utility company by another utility company, a municipally owned utility, or by another person that has the ability to operate the subject utility company.
It’s doubtful the IURC will go that far with Aqua Indiana, but regulators could establish orders setting benchmarks for water pressure.
Though city officials would like to buy the utility – or take it over through condemnation – that isn’t likely to happen for years because of a pending court case. The city took over Aqua Indiana’s northern service area in 2008 through eminent domain for $16.9 million, the price established through appraisals.
But the company is challenging that price as too low, and the issue has been tied up in court since – and hasn’t yet even gone to trial.
The city is not likely to make an offer on the southwest utility until a court validates the price of the previous purchase.
Though Friday’s hearing is in Indianapolis, local residents can view it on the Internet. (See To attend box.)
The Allen County Election Board meets Tuesday to continue discussions about whether and how to transition to vote centers in 2014.
Beth Dlug, director of elections, said the board has three options to consider. Board members could choose to do nothing and basically leave the county’s election process as it is. They could vote to spend money for infrastructure and technology upgrades needed to transition to vote centers, which would allow people to vote wherever they want during an election. Or they could go with a hybrid option, which would include reorganizing and reducing the number of existing voting precincts and then adding four additional early-voting sites.
Bus route changes
Citilink is holding several public meetings to gather opinions about proposed changes to the public transportation bus routes.
Many of the changes are needed so that buses will arrive downtown at the same time when the new transfer station at Calhoun and Baker streets opens in September.
Statewide results from the spring ISTEP+ testing will be released Tuesday.
Look for Fort Wayne Community Schools officials to report positive news. Irwin Elementary School Principal Ingrid Laidroo-Martin has been invited to participate in the Indiana Department of Education news conference in Indianapolis.
Among other purposes, the test scores are used to determine letter grades for schools and districts.
The 83rd annual Major League Baseball All Star Game will be played this week in Kansas City.
The game has become a multi-day attraction, with a 5K run, celebrity softball game and a fan favorite, the home run derby. The derby starts at 8 p.m. today on ESPN; the game itself is at 8 p.m. Tuesday on Fox.
The Fort Wayne Newspapers Three Rivers Festival begins Friday, when some of the major attractions open, including Junk Food Alley, the Downtown Midway and the Vera Bradley Festival Plaza. The festival parade begins at 10 a.m. Saturday.