State regulators will continue to oversee Eastern Bartholomew Water Corp.
About 200 of the utility’s over 5,000 customers who attended a meeting Thursday were asked to vote on whether they wanted the utility to opt out of the jurisdiction of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.
The majority cast their ballots in favor of opting out of the IURC jurisdiction, Eastern Bartholomew Water attorney Peter King said in a prepared statement.
However, it was necessary that 4% of all customers, which amounts to approximately 300 individuals, show up at Taylorsville Elementary School to vote on the question.
“The statutory requirement of a quorum of customers/members was not present,” King stated. “Therefore, Eastern Bartholomew Water Corp. will remain under the jurisdiction of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.”
Neither King nor high-ranking utility officers could be reached Friday to provide a precise vote count.
Eastern Bartholomew officials have said if customers are unhappy, they can vote out current board members during the utility’s annual meeting in April.
But one person who voted against opting out was Monica Luehrmann, who resides near Hartsville.
“We have no other place to get our water, so we are stuck with whatever rate the board approves,” Luehrmann said. “Since there is no competition, that means the only way to keep rates down is for the state to put their thumb down on the board. That’s our only oversight and our only way to have any power.”
One group that voted in favor of opting out of the commission’s jurisdiction was the Hope Town Council. The council’s decision was made last week came after Hope Utilities Superintendent David Clouse reported he had studied the matter thoroughly, town manager Jason Eckart said.
Clouse and the council felt there was a better probability of lower rates for customers if Eastern Bartholomew didn’t have to spend money and time preparing for a rate case that they claim will cost the utility $24,500 a year on average during a typical five-year rate period.
Many Indiana communities have opted out of being regulated by the state, IURC spokeswoman Stephanie Hodgin said. As of last July, the commission regulated only 66 of the approximately 525 water utilities, as well as 24 of the approximately 550 wastewater utilities, she said.