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Council advances utilities transfer proposal

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City-County Council members voted 19-10 Monday night to approve Republican Mayor Greg Ballard’s $1.9 billion plan to transfer Indianapolis’ water and sewer utilities to Citizens Energy Group.

The measure still needs the blessing of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, which could take months.

Council members voted largely along party lines in advancing the proposal, which Ballard says will generate $425 million in cash that the city can use for projects such as street and bridge improvements and vacant home demolitions. Citizens also will take over about $1.5 billion in debt obligations. The mayor announced the deal in March.

In a prepared statement, Council President Ryan Vaughn described the vote as "the most significant step forward for the city since the passage of UniGov."

Citizens, a not-for-profit trust that provides gas, steam and chilled water service to residents in Marion County, says combining the utilities under its umbrella will provide a number of efficiencies and keep rates lower than if the utilities remained in city hands.

Opponents have questioned the wisdom of handing over control of city utilities. They also have been skeptical that rates would be lower under a different ownership structure.

Democratic council minority leader Joanne Sanders argued Monday night that the deal gives Citizens too much freedom to sell water company property and doesn't provide enough public accountability.

The city acquired the water utility in 2002 from Merrillville-based NiSource. Indianapolis Water is managed by Veolia, a private firm that would continue to be tapped to help run the utility under Citizens, the city’s gas utility. The extent of that partnership has not yet been specified.

Currently, the water utility has a 33-percent rate hike request pending before the IURC. Citing questionable oversight by the city’s waterworks board and other problems with the water utility, the state’s Office of Utility Consumer Counselor says Indianapolis Water’s rate request should be limited to 17 percent.

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  1. Can your dog sign a marriage license or personally state that he wishes to join you in a legal union? If not then no, you cannot marry him. When you teach him to read, write, and speak a discernible language, then maybe you'll have a reasonable argument. Thanks for playing!

  2. Look no further than Mike Rowe, the former host of dirty jobs, who was also a classically trained singer.

  3. Current law states income taxes are paid to the county of residence not county of income source. The most likely scenario would be some alteration of the income tax distribution formula so money earned in Marion co. would go to Marion Co by residents of other counties would partially be distributed to Marion co. as opposed to now where the entirety is held by the resident's county.

  4. This is more same-old, same-old from a new generation of non-progressive 'progressives and fear mongers. One only needs to look at the economic havoc being experienced in California to understand the effect of drought on economies and people's lives. The same mindset in California turned a blind eye to the growth of population and water needs in California, defeating proposal after proposal to build reservoirs, improve water storage and delivery infrastructure...and the price now being paid for putting the demands of a raucous minority ahead of the needs of many. Some people never, never learn..

  5. I wonder if I can marry him too? Considering we are both males, wouldn't that be a same sex marriage as well? If they don't honor it, I'll scream discrimination just like all these people have....

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