Water utility proposes increase

Company wants to raise monthly bills by 48 percent

Eastern Bartholomew Water Corp. wants to raise monthly water bills by 48 percent.

If the Taylorsville-based utility’s first request for a rate increase in nine years is approved, a household that uses 5,000 gallons a month would see its bill rise from $22.83 to $33.77, according to the petition.

The proposed rate increase is necessary for Eastern Bartholomew to offset higher operating and maintenance costs, along with the need for capital improvements, said Columbus attorney Pete King, who is representing the utility in its rate request.

Proposed improvements for the utility outlined in the petition to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission include:

New water treatment plant

New storage tank

New office and maintenance buildings

New hydrants, along with meter replacements and main extensions

A GIS system mapping of the utility’s distribution system

Besides the rate hike, the water company is seeking approval to issue up to nearly $7.7 million in long-term debt.

The new water treatment plant proposed by Eastern Bartholomew will replace the two existing treatment plants that the company says have reached the end of their useful lives.

Without a new facility, the utility will not have sufficient water to meet the needs of its customers, according to a Plainfield-based civil engineering firm that testified March 1 on behalf of Eastern Bartholomew.

Eastern Bartholomew has more than 5,100 customers in Bartholomew, Decatur and Jennings counties, according to the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor, which is inviting written consumer comments on the requested rate hike through May 9.

No objections to the rate hike were raised by utility members during an April 3 meeting, King said.

Due to current inefficiencies, Eastern Bartholomew purchases about 10 percent of its water from Columbus at a substantially higher cost than what it processes itself, according to the petition.

“This is an important strategic move,” King said. “It will allow Eastern Bartholomew to control its own destiny without depending on outside suppliers.”

In his testimony to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, Kent S. Elliott of Banning Engineering, Plainfield, provided details for a new proposed water treatment plant:

The more efficient plant will be designed to a capacity that would meet the 20-year projected growth in water demand.

A new clearwell will provide 750,000 gallons of finished water storage at the water treatment plant side, which it lacks today.

The new plant will be designed for better operation during fire flow emergencies and allow water to be pumped out when the plant is down for service or an emergency.

If the IURC approves Eastern Bartholomew’s proposed rate increase, the project would go out for bid in October, and the plant should be completed by January 2019.

“Comparatively speaking, that is a very large increase,” retired Columbus attorney Mike Mullett said of the rate-increase request. “To ask for rates almost in excess of 50 percent is very unusual.”

Mullett’s area of legal expertise included public utility issues for consumer groups, but he is not personally involved in the Eastern Bartholomew Water rate-approval process, nor is he a customer of the utility.

How to comment

The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor is inviting written consumer comments on Eastern Bartholomew Water Corp.’s proposed rate increase through May 9.

The OUCC, the state agency representing consumer interests in cases before the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, is scheduled to complete its review of the utility’s request and file testimony on May 16.

Comments should be submitted in writing either by mail, fax or online so that the OUCC can properly review them and file them with the Utility Regulatory Commission. People who wish to comment should include:

  • The utility’s name and that it’s regarding a proposed rate increase and the IURC cause number of 44903.
  • Their full name, mailing address, email address if they have one and a daytime telephone number.
  • Whether they are a customer of the utility.

Where to file:

  • Online at IN.gov/OUCC (Click “Contact Us” on the left side of the page.)
  • By postal mail to Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor, PNC Center, 115 W. Washington St., Suite 1500 South, Indianapolis, IN 46204
  • By fax to 317-232-5923

Information: Call toll-free to 1-888-441-2494

Author photo
Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.