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City approval of Citizens Energy deal could come in May

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Citizens Energy should have completed the majority of its due diligence of the city’s water and sewer utilities, which it plans to acquire, by the end of this month, said Citizens CEO Carey Lykins.

Unless Citizens finds something on the books it can’t swallow, a vote in the City-County Council on Mayor Greg Ballard’s proposed deal could happen in mid- to late May, say city officials.

The $1.9 billion deal includes an estimated $425 million that would be available for city infrastructure improvements, including roads, bridges and sidewalks. It’s the stuff businesses like to see when considering where to set up shop.
 

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But Ballard, who has been touting the deal in a series of public meetings since March 10, is also pitching the proceeds as a way to lure and retain young entrepreneurs. He envisions some of the deal proceeds going into bike lanes, an amenity attractive to the young, “creative class.”

He said the cash flowing into the city also might help demolish at least some of the 4,500 abandoned houses plaguing the city.

The “vast majority” of the money will go toward what Ballard classifies as “dry infrastructure” improvements, however.

Critics have questioned whether proposals from other firms might have raised more upfront cash for the city. Ballard contends Citizens, as a public trust, ensures a stable future for the utilities and should keep downward pressure on rates because of merger synergies

The city bought Indianapolis Water from Merrillville-based utility NiSource in 2002. The terms of that deal froze rates for several years, during which time the water utility needed major infrastructure improvements. As such, the city has asked state utility regulators to raise rates 35 percent. Meanwhile, a city refinancing of water utility debt backfired amid the collapse in financial markets, leading to a 12-percent emergency water rate hike.

Ballard’s critics say turning over the utilities to Citizens will remove a layer of accountability by eliminating City-County Council oversight.

“What we have right now is the appearance of accountability,” said Michael Huber, the city’s director of enterprise development.

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission must OK the deal.

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  1. These liberals are out of control. They want to drive our economy into the ground and double and triple our electric bills. Sierra Club, stay out of Indy!

  2. These activist liberal judges have gotten out of control. Thankfully we have a sensible supreme court that overturns their absurd rulings!

  3. Maybe they shouldn't be throwing money at the IRL or whatever they call it now. Probably should save that money for actual operations.

  4. For you central Indiana folks that don't know what a good pizza is, Aurelio's will take care of that. There are some good pizza places in central Indiana but nothing like this!!!

  5. I am troubled with this whole string of comments as I am not sure anyone pointed out that many of the "high paying" positions have been eliminated identified by asterisks as of fiscal year 2012. That indicates to me that the hospitals are making responsible yet difficult decisions and eliminating heavy paying positions. To make this more problematic, we have created a society of "entitlement" where individuals believe they should receive free services at no cost to them. I have yet to get a house repair done at no cost nor have I taken my car that is out of warranty for repair for free repair expecting the government to pay for it even though it is the second largest investment one makes in their life besides purchasing a home. Yet, we continue to hear verbal and aggressive abuse from the consumer who expects free services and have to reward them as a result of HCAHPS surveys which we have no influence over as it is 3rd party required by CMS. Peel the onion and get to the root of the problem...you will find that society has created the problem and our current political landscape and not the people who were fortunate to lead healthcare in the right direction before becoming distorted. As a side note, I had a friend sit in an ED in Canada for nearly two days prior to being evaluated and then finally...3 months later got a CT of the head. You pay for what you get...

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