Aqua Indiana, Fort Wayne inch closer to deal

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Aqua Indiana customers continue to wait out Fort Wayne’s acquisition of the water system.  Two more agencies still have to sign off on the deal, one being Fort Wayne City Council, which could make the final approval next week.

On Tuesday night, city council approved two ordinances through committee that would bring the process near completion.  One ordinance was for the purchase of Aqua and the other was for a band to finance the purchase.

The bond is for $60 million that would span over 20 years.  Kumar Menon, a board member of the city’s Board of Public Works, said $50 million of the bond is for the purchase of Aqua’s southwest and north system.  Another $8 million is for integration.  “Those are all the new pipes and pumps that we have to build to connect these customers into our system,” he said.  Another $5 million is for the bond itself.  “That’s the cost we have to pay for financing the bond.”

Council unanimously approved both ordinances through committee Tuesday.

Fort Wayne plans to complete the Aqua switch in three phases.  Phase one will begin in late 2014, and the final phase is expected to be finished by the end of summer in 2015.
Fort Wayne plans to complete the Aqua switch in three phases. Phase one is set to begin in late 2014, and the final phase is expected to be finished by the end of summer in 2015.

“I think it’s going to go through quite easily,” councilman Mitch Harper, who represents the city’s fourth district, said.  “It’s good to see southwest customers will be treated as everyone else in Fort Wayne.”

Earlier in the day, Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry held a press conference, urging council to approval the acquisition.  Once approved, an additional 12,500 customers will be tapped into city water.  Some of Aqua’s current customers attended the conference to show their support.

“We’re looking forward to the switch over,” Hank Mazzola, an Aqua customer, said.  “Fort Wayne has great water.  Aqua’s is kind of hard.  There’s lots of iron.  My wife’s happy we’ll be able to get new sink fixtures after this is done, and they’ll look a lot better and they’ll stay that way.  Washing clothes will improve and the taste will be much better.”

Menon said Aqua customers can expect to save as much as $140 a year once the switch is made.

“That’s the cost savings they’ll realize on their water bill,” Menon said.  There will be indirect savings, too.  “You keep your dishwasher for 10 or 12 years, as opposed to five years.  You keep your washing machine for much longer.  You keep even smaller things like coffee pots for longer, because the water we send through our pipes is softened water and does not have the iron deposits that non-softened water does.”

If things go as planned, the city hopes to start connecting Aqua customers to city water between October or November of this year.  Once the first customers are connected, every Aqua customer in Aboite Township will begin paying city rates.  The last customers are expected be connected some time in the summer of 2015.

After council’s approval, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) will have the final say in the transaction.  Menon said at Tuesday’s meeting at the IURC has said it was glad to see the city and Aqua working together to resolve the issue.  The IURC’s approval will take four to six months.  The city’s bond will also take a month or two to finalize, after the IURC’s approval.

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