FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — On Tuesday night, Fort Wayne City Council was presented with an opportunity to acquire and enter into an agreement with the Allen County Regional Sewer District. This agreement would make the sewer district’s customers join Fort Wayne City Utilities.
“Fort Wayne sees itself just like NIPSCO or I&M, Fort Wayne City Utilities is a service provider,” said Matthew Wirtz, Fort Wayne City Utility deputy director of engineering. “We want to serve wherever we can. It’s not about representation.”
Fort Wayne City Utilities is the largest regional sewer district in Allen County. For years the water and sewer utility provider has provided treatment services for the Allen County Regional Sewer District.
The Allen County Regional Water & Sewer District Board of Trustees approved a Utility Acquisition Agreement at the August Board Meeting to transfer assets, debts and operations of the District to Fort Wayne City Utilities. The transfer is expected to take effect at the end of 2021. This was never discussed with city council prior to Tuesday’s meeting.
With the city absorbing the district, Allen County Commissioners and the Indiana Finance Authority Revolving Fund both agreed to pay $5 million each. The final $7 million would be paid by the city of Fort Wayne.
“This solution would lower rates for those residents in Allen County by $1.8 million,” director of Fort Wayne City Utilities Kumar Menon told Fort Wayne City Council Tuesday night. “That money is going to stay local.”
Allen County Regional Sewer District covers residents throughout Allen County. During Menon and Wirtz’s presentation to the city council, they said the change would directly impact more than 3,000 residents in independent political subdivisions. It will also impact more than 10,000 customers outside of Fort Wayne city limits.
“[The new services] will go up to county line road on the way to Auburn, up through Tonkel Road,” Wirtz said. “Customers even outside of Allen County in Wells County, Zanesville area all throughout Allen County. Currently, they are already connected to Fort Wayne City Utilities [but] it’s just a transfer. There will no longer be an Allen County sewer district in between.”
During a presentation, Wirtz explained who generally would be impacted, however specifics were not discussed.
Wirtz says most customers will notice a rate decrease. However, for those customers formerly on Allen County Regional Sewer District, they will see a discount of at least $50 a month and a yearly decrease of $600.
However, Councilwoman Sharon Tucker (District 6) was not in favor of the resolution stating that the new residents should have representation. Even though residents in the county will be connected to the city utility, it does not mean they have a vote or representation on the city utility board.
Allen County Attorney Mitch Harper also spoke out against the resolution stating that county representation should be included.
If council does not approve the purchase, the future for the agreement and the customers impacted remains unclear.
The discussion on the acquisition will continue at the Allen County Council meeting Thursday.