NineStar Connect closes $4M acquisition of local water utility

Hancock County utility NineStar Connect has closed on its $4 million acquisition of Gem Water Utility from the town of Cumberland, Ninestar announced Thursday.

Gem Utilities has about 500 water customers in a territory between Cumberland’s east boundary and NineStar’s current water service territory around the community of Philadelphia in western Hancock County.

As part of the acquisition, NineStar Connect agreed to run high-speed fiber to each home and business in the Gem Water Utility territory. And NineStar for-profit subsidiary Central Indiana Communications Inc. is expected to build a fiber-optic network connecting Cumberland’s municipal facilities, including the town hall, parks and trails.

“The Mt. Comfort Corridor is one of the state’s bright spots of economic growth and activity,” NineStar Connect CEO Michael Burrow said in a written comment. “Making Gem Water Utility part of the NineStar family enables us to expand our high-speed fiber and utility infrastructure, which is essential to the area’s ability to attract and retain this growth.”

Cumberland purchased Gem in 2010 and soon determined it was too expensive to operate the utility. The utility has the highest rates in Hancock County.

“This sale is about economic development and the establishment of a community partnership between the town of Cumberland and NineStar,” said Cumberland Town Manager April Fisher said in a written statement. “Cumberland will use the proceeds from the sale to expand the infrastructure of the town’s wastewater utilities, which will help encourage positive development. Additionally, the expansion of NineStar’s high-speed fiber throughout this region will result in more connectivity and opportunities for residents and businesses.”

NineStar Connect was formed in 2011 through the merger of Hancock Telecom and Central Indiana Power. Its goal is to expand water and sewer service across thousands of acres of unincorporated territory in central and northern parts of Hancock County, roughly between Greenfield and Fortville.

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