About 20 people attended Thursday’s public hearing regarding Eastern Bartholomew Water Corporation’s request for a rate hike.

But only three of them chose to address their concerns to Administrative Law Judge Carol Sparks Drake and Indiana Utility Regulatory commissioner Sarah Freeman.

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.

During the half-hour long hearing at Taylorsville Elementary School, Hope Town Manager J.T. Doane told Drake and Freeman that his community strongly opposes the proposed rate increase.

That’s because Hope, which receives its water supply from Eastern Bartholomew, enacted a significant hike of its own in 2015 that raised the average monthly water bill from $26.41 to $40.68, Doane said.

Tom Heller of Columbus spoke on behalf of Hope resident Kathy Essex Au.

After examining documents submitted by the utility, Heller said proposed extensions of distribution lines include a new seven-mile loop of 8-inch water mains in the Hartsville area.

“However, I didn’t see any mention of a plan to replace or upgrade lines that provide service to the vast majority of current customers,” Heller said.

The proposed new treatment facility that would replace two existing ones would have far more capacity than what Eastern Bartholomew will need to meet projected demand, he said.

Brian Jasper, who lives on County Road 900N, said a recently approved 10-cent Indiana gas tax increase will become a burden on low-income Hoosiers, and the rate hike will make it worse for local residents.

However, the Hope resident spent most of his address accusing Eastern Bartholomew County administrators of neglecting their facilities and infrastructure for too long.

“We need new management, not a rate hike,” Jasper said.

Arguments from attorneys representing all sides of the rate hike request will be heard during a 9 a.m. June 23 hearing in the PNC Center on West Washington Street in Indianapolis.

A final decision is likely to be announced this summer or early this fall, a state spokesman said.

How to make comments

The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor will accept comments regarding Eastern Bartholomew County Water’s proposed rate hike through June 14.

Comments can be made on the website at IN.gov/OUCC – or by email at uccinfo@oucc.IN.gov

They may also be mailed to:

Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor

Consumer Services Staff

115 W. Washington St., Suite 1500 South

Indianapolis, IN 46204

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