Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Are Proposed Increases in Indianapolis Stormwater Fees to Make Utility More Attractive to a Buyer?

One of the proposals that failed at Thursday nights Public Works Committee meeting was a measure that would have changed the way in which stormwater fees are calculated and greatly increased those
Councilor Vernon Brown
fees, approximately doubling them.   Future increases in the stormwater fees would thereafter be pegged to automatically increase with inflation.  Why a Republican would ever favor that a tax or fee increase in conjunction with inflation is a mystery to me.  Such an approach is completely antithetical to a philosophy of fiscal conservativism.  Yet that is what the Ballard administration is pushing and the two Republicans on the committee, Ginny Cain and Janice McHenry, supported it.

Councilor Vern Brown, chairman of the committee, uncovered another possible reason for the increase besides addressing various projects - to make the stormwater utility more valuable and thus enable it to be sold like the sewer and water utilities were sold to Citizens'.  Apparently that was on the table during the previous sale of city utilities to Citizens Energy.  Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana reports:
Perhaps the most important part of the discussion during last night's Public Works Committee meeting came when Councilor Vernon Brown questioned DPW Director Lori Miser about whether it was the intention of the Ballard administration to sell the city's storm water assets to Citizens Energy. Miser claims there's no intent to do that, but she would not unequivocally say that would not occur. This is extremely important because I was a bit surprised to learn the storm water responsibilities still rested with the city after Citizens Energy acquired the sewer and water utilities in 2010, particularly since Indianapolis relies on a combined sewer system for storm water and sewage.

Miser initially claimed that there was no intent to sell the storm water asset because "this is pretty important piece of infrastructure for us to keep managing." Pressed by Brown, Miser conceded the City had originally planned to sell the storm water component to Citizens as a part of the 2010 sale, which sold off the equally important water and sewer utilities. "They weren't willing to pay the price that they were worth so we took that option off the table," Miser said. While the assets weren't included, the services were. Yes, the City has a service contract with Citizens to provide a number of services for the storm water program since virtually all of the employees who handled the storm water program became employees of Citizens following the sale....
To see the rest of Gary's article, click here.  It also contains a link to the video of Councilor's Brown's comments regarding the possible hidden purpose of the increase.

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