Evansville Water Rate Hike Hearing
Wednesday evening, people had the opportunity to voice their opinions about Evansville's proposed water hike.
Compared to surrounding communities, Evansville water is still a good deal, but residents could be paying up to 49 percent more for their monthly water charges if the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) approves a proposed rate hike. The IURC is working with the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) which will collect testimonies made by ratepayers before they make a final decision. According to the information provided by the OUCC, the average water bill would go from $22.01 to $32.81 each month per 5,000 gallons including the fire protection surcharge.
Allen Mounts, the director of Evansville Water and Sewer Utility, says the additional charge will fund the replacement of 600 miles of cast iron lines that are almost a century old. Over the past years, the antiquated lines have lead to frequent main breaks and water quality issues. In 2014 alone, there were 51 main breaks per hundred miles of pipeline, five times more than the regional average.
Along with the repairs, the rate hike will help pay for operational expenses and offset lost revenue from water conservation due to high efficiency appliances and equipment. Mounts said that while revenues have declined, the costs to continue operating the utility remains consistent.
To make his case, Mounts has shown Evansville's rates are low compared to other Southwest Indiana towns such as Mt. Vernon, Boonville, Princeton and Newburgh. Those low rates might be appealing to potential residents, but have come at a cost when trying to fund upgrades to the aging infrastructure. Taking out the fire surcharge, the increase would still place water rates lower in Evansville than those neighboring communities.
The hearing was held at 6:00pm on Wednesday, May 25th, at North High School Auditorium. The audience was small, consisting of older residents. Of those there, only a few publicly spoke. Frankie Niedhammer, an Evansville resident for over 70 years, said she was disappointed that more, especially younger, people did not show up. Niedhammer said, "If somebody doesn't come and talk, they'll just think nobody cares. And we need more young people to speak, to pay attention, because it's their future and their children's future." When speaking at the hearing, she also noted that the location and time were unfair and were a cause of the low turnout. That same night Mayor Lloyd Winnecke was holding his Traveling City Hall focusing on the "Build 4 Evansville" project which also drew public attention.
For residents who did not attend the hearing, comments can still be sent to the OUCC until July 6, 2016. Following the deadline, the IURC will make it's final order in November/December. For more information on the proposal, you can view submitted testimonies and case updates here.