2018-10-10 / Front Page

Water rate increase approved by Delphi Council in split vote

By Debbie Lowe
Staff writer

Amid objections from audience members who spoke long and hard Monday night about concerns over a $14.5 million fund for a water project and a rate hike, three of the five Delphi

City Council members approved a significant increase. The public hearing for the ordinance lasted more than an hour and in that time, many concerns were expressed by community members and two Council members.

Much of the controversy about the project was centered on the lack of information from Indiana Packers Corporation (IPC) regarding plans to continue to be a water customer. Mayor Shane Evans said he is confident IPC will continue to be a water customer after the project is finished. He said although he has not had a formal meeting with IPC officials, he has spoken with them as much as twice per week recently.

Council member Brian Garrison, who voted to approve the rate hike, said he is 100 percent certain IPC will leave if the City runs out of water. He said he thought that if the County Health Department would inspect the water tanks, it would order them not to be used. He said he has done nothing as a Council member to remedy the situation in the past 10 years, but it is time to do something now.

According to written information provided by John Julien of Umbaugh and Associates, the City already has a 58 percent debt to income ratio. It was stated by an audience member that to incur more debt at this time is fiscally irresponsible.

“There are other ways to fix this problem besides gaining $14.5 million more in debt,” city resident Jayne Abbott said. “It’s too much debt. It’s too much on the taxpayer.”

Council member Dale Seward said it is rumored IPC plans to disengage from the city water system in the near future. He said due diligence has not been done to ensure they will remain a customer for years to come. He said the Mayor has only presented one option to address the problem. Seward said there are other options that should be explored before raising rates and going into debt.

“I don’t think this is the best option and that’s why I keep voting against it,” he said.

“I believe this is what we should be doing, what we are doing,” Garrison responded. “We believe the experts we hire. I believe this is our best option.”

Council member Mike Shockley said there are too many variables and unknowns for this step to be taken.

“What’s the stone quarry going to do? What’s IPC going to do?” he asked. “That’s why I have voted no. People in Delphi have asked me to vote this way.”

“We have to take some things in good faith,” council member Dick Traeger said.

He said people in his district have spoken with him as well “and I’ve only gotten one negative comment.”

Garrison made the motion to pass the ordinance on third reading and Traeger provided the second. Voting with Garrison and Traeger was Carolyn Pearson. Seward and Shockley voted against passing the ordinance.

The effective date of the increase is now unknown. Although Evans said at last week’s meeting the increase in the rate will be applied to current water usage and reflected in the water bill received in November, he reversed his statement Monday night. He said the increase could be seen in the December or January 2019 bill, but was unsure of which month residents would see the increase.

A video of the meeting can be found on Youtube.

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