Ted Darnall: Water utility calls for deregulation vote

I have served on the Eastern Bartholomew Water Corporation for 15 years and as president for the last six years.

On Thursday, May 25 at Taylorsville Elementary School at 6 p.m., the members of Eastern Bartholomew Water Corporation will hold a very important meeting involving the future of the water corporation, a not-for-profit Indiana rural water utility governed by its membership. At each annual meeting, the membership elects the board of directors from the membership. Each member of the board is a member of Eastern Bartholomew Water Corporation and is keenly aware of the needs of the membership and the water company.

The board believes in local control of our water utility. We have been blessed with a water aquifer that allows us to provide water to the members of our community at a reasonable cost.

Our board members are always looking to ensure that we provide the best possible service for the least cost.

As we reviewed our long-term strategy for the next decade, we determined that removing Eastern Bartholomew Water Corporation from the jurisdiction of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) would serve the best interests of our membership.

Many utilities have opted out of the IURC in order to save costs and to ensure local control of this important natural resource — our water.

The board of directors conducted a survey as to whether Eastern Bartholomew Water Corporation should opt out of the IURC. Upon receiving a favorable response, the Board of Directors has called a special meeting of the members and customers to consider the following ballot:

[ ] YES, I want to withdraw from the jurisdiction of the commission.

[ ] NO, I want to remain under the jurisdiction of the commission.

A withdrawal from the jurisdiction of the IURC means the IURC does not have authority to regulate the following: (1) Rates and charges; (2) Stocks, bonds, notes, or other evidence of indebtedness; (3) Rules; and (4) The annual report filing requirement.

Some questions have been asked about “opting out”. They include:

  • How will Eastern set rates?

The Board of Directors will request a review of the rates by a rate consultant, and then the board will determine, based on that review, the reasonable rates necessary to support the utility going forward. This is very similar to the report submitted to IURC without all the red tape associated with a rate case. This will save the cost of the expensive rate proceedings that can occur at the IURC.

  • Besides deciding rate cases and setting rates, are there any additional services that are currently provided to Eastern by IURC?

We are not aware of any other services provided by the IURC to Eastern, other than setting rates and charges and requiring annual reports.

  • If Eastern withdraws from the IURC, how will this impact processes, policies, etc. that Eastern follows?

The Board will continue to follow the rules and regulations that are standard for the rural water industry.

  • How will this affect the quality control of the water?

There will be no difference in quality control. Eastern will continue to do all testing required by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM), a separate state agency that reviews and regulates the activities of Eastern.

The withdrawal from the IURC will have no affect on the water quality, and Eastern will continue to make appropriate regulatory reports to the IDEM.

This special meeting on the ballot above has been called for 6 p.m. Thursday at 6:00 p.m. at the Taylorsville Elementary School cafeteria, 9711 Walnut Street, Taylorsville.

Under the provisions of Indiana law, in order to participate in this vote, you must cast your secret ballot in person during the meeting on that date. No proxies will be permitted.

We would encourage all members and customers to be present and make their voices known on this important decision for our water company.

In order to opt out, it will be necessary for 5% of our membership/customers, or approximately 300 members/customers, to cast a vote on this question. A majority will decide the question.

We thank you for your time and interest. The Board of Directors unanimously believe that “opting out” of the IURC will serve the best interest of our ratepayers and allow local control of our water company.

Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the office by phone: 812-526-9777, or email: [email protected]

Ted Darnall is president of the Board of Directors of Eastern Bartholomew Water Corporation, which serves more than 5,200 customers in northern, eastern and southern Bartholomew County, as well as parts of northwestern Jennings and southern Johnson County. Send comments to [email protected]