The City of Fort Wayne works hard to make sure that basic services are provided to all of our residents. Our nationally recognized water utility provides reliable and high quality water at an affordable price. There are 12,000 Aqua Indiana water customers in and near southwest Fort Wayne who need and deserve to receive City water.
Since taking office in 2008, I have been committed to finding a solution to water challenges faced by Aqua customers. The City has done everything it can to reach an agreement with Aqua. To this point, the City and Aqua have not been able to agree on a better future of water service in southwest Fort Wayne. As a result, I recently announced the City is moving forward to condemn Aqua's water utility. We have been patient, but now is the time to take action.
This is about public health and public safety. Those issues cannot be compromised. We must ensure that residents and public safety officials have access to a water supply that is reliable and has adequate reserve capacity to meet the water pressure demands of our growing community.
A recent independent audit completed at the request of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) was not favorable toward Aqua. The IURC declared that Aqua's decision-making regarding fire protection was unacceptable. In addition, Aqua's master planning was again declared to be inadequate.
The City believes the recommendations in the audit can be accomplished with City Utilities as the owner/operator of Aqua's system or by the City working collaboratively with Aqua.
My concerns about Aqua's inability to meet water demands during this past summer's drought and their lack of a suitable plan to meet the current and long-term needs of customers were verified by the audit.
During this past summer's drought, Fort Wayne City Utilities assisted Aqua by providing water to approximately 1,300 customers due to Aqua's inability to meet water needs and demands. Assistance from City Utilities might be necessary again if peak demands experienced this past summer return again next year.
Aqua currently serves 12,000 water customers in southwest Fort Wayne -- with 70 percent of those customers residing inside City limits. To date, more than 20 neighborhood associations served by Aqua have separately submitted petitions requesting a change to City Utilities. By switching to water service provided by City Utilities, the average Aqua customer would save $160-$220 annually based on current and projected rates.
Even though condemnation is being pursued, the City will continue to be open to negotiations with Aqua in efforts to reach an agreement. We anticipate City Council will begin discussing our recommendation to condemn Aqua Indiana in January.
On another subject, please join me in congratulating the Holiday Cab program, which launching its 25th year of operating in our city. Holiday Cab provides free cab rides home to impaired drivers during the holiday season. This year, it runs from Thursday, December 20 to Tuesday, January 1 from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. Residents must call Holiday Cab at 426-1301, in order to participate in the free service program.
Holiday Cab was created in 1987 to provide an alternative for residents looking for a safe ride home. Last year, the program provided nearly 400 rides. We applaud the Holiday Cab program for providing this community service for 25 years – including providing 400 rides in 2011. We join them in seeking to ensure that no lives are endangered on our roadways.
On behalf of the City of Fort Wayne, I wish all of our residents a very Happy Holiday season!