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Private water, sewer utilities propose sale to Cumberland

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Indianapolis’ water and sewer utilities aren’t the only ones with a “sale pending” sign out front.

Privately owned Gem Utilities Inc. and Gem Water Inc. have proposed selling their sewer and water operations to the town of Cumberland for $6 million.

Greenfield-based Gem serves more than 550 homes and businesses in an area mostly east of Mount Comfort Road and on both sides of U.S. 40.

Gem’s most visible structure is the “Look up to Jesus” water tower just south of U.S. 40, whose paint job would surely be secularized under municipal ownership.

The town of Cumberland, which straddles Hancock and Marion counties, has asked the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to approve the deal, to allow it to impose Gem’s existing water rates, and to allow it to issue up to $2.1 million in waterworks revenue bonds.

Cumberland already has a sewer service but wants to extend sewer and water service, particularly farther east into Hancock County.

Improved utility service “is essential in these difficult financial times to position the town to effectively compete for economic development opportunities as they may arise,” Cumberland Town Manager Jeffrey Sheridan told the commission.

Sheridan said the deal should benefit Gem customers because Cumberland can issue tax-exempt debt that the private owner cannot.

It’s the reverse scenario for big brother Indianapolis, where Mayor Greg Ballard is trying to sell the city’s water and sewer utilities to Citizens Energy Group. Ballard touts the deal as a way to depoliticize the systems, bring efficiencies to the utilities, and to reduce city debt and generate $450 million for capital projects.

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  1. The deductible is entirely paid by the POWER account. No one ever has to contribute more than $25/month into the POWER account and it is often less. The only cost not paid out of the POWER account is the ER copay ($8-25) for non-emergent use of the ER. And under HIP 2.0, if a member calls the toll-free, 24 hour nurse line, and the nurse tells them to go to the ER, the copay is waived. It's also waived if the member is admitted to the hospital. Honestly, although it is certainly not "free" - I think Indiana has created a decent plan for the currently uninsured. Also consider that if a member obtains preventive care, she can lower her monthly contribution for the next year. Non-profits may pay up to 75% of the contribution on behalf of the member, and the member's employer may pay up to 50% of the contribution.

  2. I wonder if the governor could multi-task and talk to CMS about helping Indiana get our state based exchange going so Hoosiers don't lose subsidy if the court decision holds. One option I've seen is for states to contract with healthcare.gov. Or maybe Indiana isn't really interested in healthcare insurance coverage for Hoosiers.

  3. So, how much did either of YOU contribute? HGH Thank you Mr. Ozdemir for your investments in this city and your contribution to the arts.

  4. So heres brilliant planning for you...build a $30 M sports complex with tax dollars, yet send all the hotel tax revenue to Carmel and Fishers. Westfield will unlikely never see a payback but the hotel "centers" of Carmel and Fishers will get rich. Lousy strategy Andy Cook!

  5. AlanB, this is how it works...A corporate welfare queen makes a tiny contribution to the arts and gets tons of positive media from outlets like the IBJ. In turn, they are more easily to get their 10s of millions of dollars of corporate welfare (ironically from the same people who are against welfare for humans).

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