In a move designed to kick-start commercial and residential development in rural parts of Hancock County, a small utility cooperative wants to expand water and sewer services to customers that now use well water and septic systems.
It’s a bold move for NineStar Connect, which is not even in the water or sewer business, but provides electric and Internet service. The Greenfield not-for-profit was created by the 2011 merger of Hancock Telecom and Central Indiana Power.
The company’s plan is to buy and combine two small utilities in the county into a regional wastewater district. From there, it aims to expand water and sewer service across thousands of acres of unincorporated territory in central and northern parts of the county, roughly between Greenfield and Fortville.
“Two-thirds of the land in Hancock County currently is unserved by any water or sewer utility,” said Michael Burrow, NineStar’s president and CEO, in a written statement. “The lack of access to wet utility infrastructure is a hindrance to economic development in some areas we serve, and we see NineStar Connect as able to play a vital role in benefiting unserved areas within our communities.”
The two utilities the company wants to buy are Sugar Creek Utilities, which provides sewer and water service to Heartland Resort campground and a neighboring subdivision; and Philadelphia Water Works, a utility that was recently formed to provide water and sewer service to a planned subdivision on 11 acres west of Greenfield.
The purchase of those utilities will require approval from the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission. NineStar said it expects to get approval by mid-2016, after which the utility plans to begin offering service to water and sewer customers.
The utility said it will not require any homes or businesses to connect to its system, and plans to maintain rates now offered by the utilities it wants to buy for “as long as possible.”
NineStar said it will not offer services in any area currently served or claimed by water and sewer utilities, including Greenfield’s sewer district.