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Water billing changes delayed


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Bargersville and Center Grove-area residents haven’t seen decreases to their water bills, though town officials said they hope to be able to lower them soon.

Town manager Kevin McGinnis said early this year that he hoped to cut water bills, including by eliminating a sprinkler fee, by early April, or in time for sprinkler season.

Now changes to bills likely won’t happen until fall, but officials still expect to slash the charges, town council president Ken Zumstein said.

 

Bargersville officials have committed to studying the rates. The plan was to see how much a new water treatment plant costs to operate and then cut fees if the town can afford it.

The expectation was that the study would show the amounts charged to residents were higher than needed, McGinnis had said.

After the study is completed, mistakes, such as the inconsistent charging of fire hydrant fees to businesses, will be cleaned up and the new water rates will be calculated, Zumstein said. When the rates are changed, the town will switch to itemized billing since the way bills are calculated will change at the same time, he said.

The study should be completed by the end of this month, and then the town will start hosting public meetings about proposed new water rates, Zumstein said. The town council will vote on new rates at the end of September, he said.

The average bill for owning a sprinkler system, fire hydrant access and water for a home is $44.57 per month, a 77 percent increase from four years ago.

The utility serves 11,057 homes and businesses, in the town of Bargersville and much of the southern part of the Center Grove area.

The town needed to operate the new water treatment plant for at least one year before an accounting firm could study how much it costs to run, Zumstein said.

Years of billing mistakes and differences between how the town has kept records over time are delaying billing changes, he said.

For example, the accounting firm, London Witte Group of Indianapolis, discovered the utility hasn’t consistently charged a water hydrant fee for private hydrants on commercial property.

Following town rules and consistently billing all of the businesses with private hydrants could help the town better afford to cut water fees for residents, Zumstein said.

“We’re finding a lot of different things as we go through this study. We’re trying to get as much good data and go out and get our records as up-to-date as we can,” he said.

The delays are frustrating to White River Township resident John Jefferson, who has met with and called town officials for more than a year asking why he has to pay a sprinkler fee for a system he doesn’t use and why he can’t get an itemized bill for his water service.

Not getting to see a breakdown of what he’s paying for when he pays his water bill isn’t fair, and neither is paying for a sprinkler fee year round when he doesn’t use the sprinkler system and already pays for the water if it is used, Jefferson said.

“Let the people know what they’re paying for,” he said.

The approximately $12 per month sprinkler fee is among the costs the town is considering cutting for residents, McGinnis said.

Bargersville hired London Witte earlier this year to study its water utility rates with the expectation of learning the town was charging too much money and could slash residents’ fees.

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