company customers protest rate hike
By Lorell Fleming
GARY - Indiana-American Water Co. customers opposed to
the company’s proposed rate hike let loose a flood of
dissent during a public hearing on the matter Tuesday
at Indiana University Northwest.
Ten customers, mostly from Gary, voiced their objections
during Tuesday’s hearing held by the Indiana Utility Regulatory
Commission. Three others submitted their opposition in
writing to be entered on the official record.
Indiana-American is asking the state regulators to allow
the water company for a 14.7 percent rate increase for
its Northwest Indiana customers. The investor-owned water
company has customers in Burns Harbor, Chesterton, Gary,
Hobart, Merrillville, Portage, Porter and South Haven.
The water company is seeking the rate increases to recoup
the cost of purchasing both the Northwest Indiana Water
Co. in 1999 and the Turkey Creek water utility in 2002.
The money generated by the increase would also pay for
operating, maintenance and higher security costs.
About two years ago, the water company raised the rates
by 38 percent with the approval of state regulators. An
immediate 18.1 percent jump was followed later by a 20.2
Indiana-American got that rate increase to recover the
costs of building a new intake tunnel into Lake Michigan.
There was no sympathy for the water company at Tuesday’s
"They had two raises once they bought the company.
Now they want another one?" said Gary resident Katherine
The company wants to raise rates in other communities
throughout Indiana also. Most of those proposed rate increases
are more than the 14.7 rate jump sought for the company’s
Northwest Indiana customers.
Final say on utility rate increases rests with the IURC.
"I find it very offensive that we have a government
agency that allowed a private entity to buy something
and then have us pay for it," said customer Booker
Douglas of Gary. "That’s robbery."
The IURC is expected to make a decision on the proposed
rate hike sometime after April 19.
The consumer counselor’s office is the state agency that
represents customers in utility rate cases. The office
has to file its written testimony with the IURC by Feb.