How About Spending The Money On Maintaining Our Public Utilities?

Mayor Greg Ballard and his Democratic opponent Melina Kennedy have been debating whether the City should spend all of the $425 million the City netted from the sale of the water and sewer utilities to Citizens Energy for new streets and sidewalks, or set aside some of the money as Kennedy would like to do for education and crime prevention. Some might also ask why the money isn't being spent on maintaining the utilities. A reader passed along a recent story that aired on WTHR News questioning why Indianapolis was experiencing such a high volume of water main breaks.

The water company is asking US to wait at least another week before we water our lawns.

The extremely high demand for water is putting a lot of stress on the city's aging water mains.

13 investigates has found the number of breaks isn't just high when compared to last year. It's also abnormally higher than one of our nation's biggest cities . . .

News of an extended request to voluntarily limit water consumption made news near the ninth hole.

It comes as the Indianapolis Water Company says high water consumption is "stressing" its old system.
"The lack of rain will drive people to demand more water, all at the same time. With that demand, it stresses the pipes. And that's what causes the main breaks," explained Department of Waterworks Executive Director Matthew Klein.

The city has had 65 main failures so far this month, nearly a dozen more than last year.

But water mains were breaking at a record pace well before the dry spell. Most contributed to freezing and thawing.

Now the city says it's the heat-related demand.
"We want to make sure main breaks don't happen on hospitals, assisted living facilities and people who might be at risk," Klein said.

13 Investigates wanted to know how other cities with old systems were faring.

In Friday's New York Daily News, New York City reports 7,000 miles of old water mains dating back to the 1870s. That's 3,000 more than Indianapolis and some of New York's pipes are ten years older.

Yet last year New York recorded just 444 water main breaks. Indianapolis had nearly 700.

In 2009, New York had 360 breaks, while Indianapolis nearly doubled that number with 600.

New York city officials say heat is not a factor.

"Our 4,300 miles of mains are made up of different qualities, 50, 60, 100 years old, and depending on how you move the water, and the pressures," Klein said it could all add up to trouble.

New York also reportedly spent a billion dollars replacing and maintaining its system since 2002 using a team of "leak detection units." Indianapolis does not have such a system.
Yes, Klein's claim that heat is the reason for the high number of water main breaks is a complete fabrication. I've explained the history of the water company that led us to where we are on multiple occasions in the past, but it always seems to get overlooked in the big picture discussions by our esteemed civic leaders. I'll repeat the history again, although it's now too late to mean anything just like explaining why our nation's credit worthiness was downgraded on Friday. [No, the tea party is not to blame for the S&P's downgrade as some Democrats are now claiming, if you were stupid enough to buy that argument].

After NiSource bought the water company back in the 1990s, it started selling off its most profitable assets and ignored the infrastructure needs of the water company. It turned around and sold the water company to the City of Indianapolis for more than double what it was truly worth given the unmet infrastructure needs and the sell off of some of its prized assets. Despite major increases in water rates over the past several years, the City made barely a dent in the backlog of work that needed to be done after running up about $900 billion in new debt. In their infinite wisdom, Mayor Greg Ballard and the City-County Council approved a deal selling the assets to Citizens Energy and tacking on an extra $425 million to the selling price that could be spent by Mayor Greg Ballard in his re-election campaign on new streets and sidewalk projects. The utility assets' value were simply inflated to produce the $425 million. You and I will pay for that in even higher water and sewer utility rates over the coming decade, which will likely increase several fold. And you will also see higher rates to make the necessary repairs ignored by NiSource and its successor operator, Veolia. Like NiSource, however, Veolia made hundreds of millions of dollars at your expense due to the stupidity or corruption of our elected officials, pick your poison. Now the parties are squealing over whether Mayor Greg Ballard should be allowed to engage in self-promotion by touting the benefits of his deal, along with your skyrocketing utility bill. Yes, they really do think you are all just a bunch of suckers.