Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Letters

March 16, 2014

March 16, 2014: Letters to the editor

Stop water sale by town of Russiaville

The Russiaville Town Council’s haste to sell off the town’s water system to New Jersey-based American Water Co. is ill-advised and deserves a longer look. At the very least, any proposed sale to Indiana American Water — the corporation’s Indiana subsidiary — needs to go to a referendum of Russiaville voters.

With due respect to Russiaville Town Council members who are grappling with many difficult decisions, selling the town’s public water utility to a private, for-profit company is a bad idea. It is bad for the consumer, and it is a bad precedent to pass down to future generations.

More than 160 Russiaville voters — well above the required Indiana state law requirement — have signed petitions to require a public ballot on any sale of the water system. We congratulate Russiaville residents for exercising a fundamental, democratic right that makes our society strong. But we believe the Russiaville Town Council should do the right thing now by shelving this misguided scheme to sell off one of the community’s most vital assets — its public water system.

We believe Russiaville residents should consider American Water’s track record elsewhere.

In Kokomo, American Water has raised water rates nearly 38 percent since 2003 and recently asked the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission for another consumer rate hike of 6.75 percent. In Mooresville, town officials have been forced to sue the company to win control of their town’s water system.

In neighboring Kentucky, American Water is lobbying for a change in state law to make it easier for the company to buy small community water systems with less transparency or regulatory oversight.

In West Virginia, the state Public Service Commission strongly criticized the company’s conduct in 2011 when American Water slashed 10 percent of its workforce after top management complained a rate hike granted by regulators wasn’t big enough. Even though the commission had approved a 4.4 percent rate increase that fully funded all of the staff positions requested by the company, American Water’s CEO publicly threatened to impose “operating cost reductions” in the state because the commission had failed to approve the full 13 percent rate hike the company wanted.

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