More than one hundred Tippecanoe County residents packed into the Harrison High School auditorium Monday evening to protest, often fervently, a water rate hike proposed by provider American Suburban Utilities.
The company, which serves some neighborhoods on the north and west sides of West Lafayette, this September introduced a plan that would double residents’ wastewater rate over the next three years. ASU officials say the rate increase is needed to fund an expansion and upgrade of the company’s Carriage Estates Treatment Plant so that facility meets EPA requirements and can serve future population growth.
Critics of the plan jumped at the chance to voice their opposition to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission. Virtually every speaker at the hearing was in opposition to the rate increase.
Many in attendance, including Darian Girard, criticized the company for using current customers to pay for the needs of future ratepayers.
“To me, the analogy would be owning a restaurant and you saying 'I want to open a second one but in order to do it, you have to double the cost of all your food items',” he says. “Only difference is, people have a choice about visiting your restaurant.”
Another resident, Don Buchman, says he would like to see the city’s utility company step in.
“I think the problem is more strategic,” says Buchman, “and I think it has to be one that merges the assets and the facilities of ASU with West Lafayette Wastewater.”
Neighborhood activists have floated alternatives to ASU’s plan, including converting the plant in question into a lift station working in concert with West Lafayette’s treatment facilities.
Other people criticized the hike’s flat rate across all types of households and the possibility that construction work on the plant could be done by a company that is also owned by ASU President Scott Lods.
John Carter, President of the Lindberg Village Homeowners’ Association, says his neighbors are worried about what will happen once the potential upgrades are made.
“Even if he did get this approved, he does his projects done, and his expansion done to increase his business, when it’s all said and done in the maybe five years, they’re not going to decrease our rates,” Carter said. “All that money then turns into profit for [Lods].”
The public comment period ends February 16.