GREENTOWN – The Greentown Town Council has backed out of an agreement with Indiana American Water to conduct a free assessment of the town’s water and sewage utilities, which would have led to a purchase offer from the company.
Katie Regan, the councilwoman-elect from Ward 1, said the council announced during its Tuesday meeting it would place the town’s water and sewage utility on the open market and seek bids to potentially sell them.
She said the council now plans to issue a request for bid proposals from outside companies, which will cost the town $20,000 to $40,000 in consulting fees.
After receiving bids, the council will determine if it wants to sell the utility.
The move comes after Council President Scott Deyoe sent a letter to Indiana American Water earlier this month requesting a free assessment of the town’s utility after pushback from residents looking for relief from their high water and wastewater rates.
Greentown residents have been feeling the pinch of high water and sewer bills since 2013, when the town council voted to increase the wastewater rate by 81 percent to fund a $5.5 million project to upgrade the town’s wastewater facility.
Then, earlier this year, the council voted to hike up the water rate by 56 percent.
Indiana American Water had agreed to pay up to $35,000 to fund an assessment of the town’s utility and make an offer to buy them, Regan said.
The council would not have had to pay for the assessment unless it voted to sell the utility to another company within a year after the assessment was complete.
Greentown residents were hopeful the offer by Indiana American Water would have included lower water and sewer rates.
Now, the town will pay out of its own funds to assess the utility in order to put out a request for bids.
After Tuesday’s decision, Regan said she believes the council has not facilitated an open discussion with residents about the pros and cons of selling the utility.
“As councilwoman elect, my opinion is that residents want relief from the high utility rates and that the merits of ownership versus privatization have not been fully discussed without the pressure of immediate council action,” she said in an email.
“If the council feels they cannot provide a forum for such discussions, that does not preclude the residents from meeting on their own and formulating questions to the council,” Regan said.
Liberty Township Trustee Troy Beachy, who pushed the council to approve the free assessment from Indiana American Water, said putting the town’s utility out to bid could potentially lower rates.
But, he said, he worries the council backed out of the deal with Indiana American Water as a way to postpone making a decision.
“I’m just afraid this is a stall tactic and that they’re not going to do anything,” Beachy said.
Deyoe said Thursday he would not comment on the proposal outside of council meetings.
Deyoe and Councilwoman Joyce Higginbottom have both said they are not in favor of selling the utility.