Indy’s Water/Sewer Ownership Shift Proceeds Smoothly

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | March 2012, Vol. 67 No. 3

The project will reduce the amount and frequency of raw sewage overflows during rains. It will include a deep tunnel system 18-feet in diameter 25-miles in length with a storage capacity of 250 million gallons. The project will extend from the Southport Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant located in southern Marion County to a point beneath the heart of downtown Indianapolis. The Deep Rock Tunnel Connector, which will be complete in 2017, will transport wastewater from three other connector tunnels to be built by 2025.

The financial impact of the utility transition is far reaching and extends far beyond water and wastewater operations, releasing the city from 1.5 billion in public debt, with Citizens Energy Group assuming all assets and liabilities including the consent decree for the abatement of combined sewer overflows, said Dan Considine, Citizens manager of corporate communications. Citizens acquired the water system for the cost of its debt and paid the city $262.6 million for the equity in the wastewater system. A bond issue on future increases in Payment in Lieu of Taxes on the wastewater system and the retention of a wastewater general fund brought total proceeds to the city of about $425 million.

Those funds are being used by the Department of Public Works for unprecedented investments in public works improvements on streets, bridges, sidewalks, multi-use trails, parks and demolition of abandoned houses.

“Today marks a great day for our community,” said Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, on the day the transfer became effective “This historic transfer will make Indianapolis a better place to live and do business by making our rivers and streams cleaner, bringing more consistency to these vital utilities, and saving utility customers money through rates that will be lower than they otherwise would have been. It will benefit our community for generations.”

Personal Look At The Utility Transfer

Last Aug. 26, John Morgan was assistant administrator, tunneling, Indianapolis Department of Public Works. He had served the city for nine years. The next day, he had a new office in a different building and a new title, manager of special projects,

The change wasn’t really a career move for Morgan -- it came with the transfer of Indianapolis water and wastewater services to the non-profit charitable trust, Citizens Energy Group. The transfer was very well planned and occurred without significant problems, said Morgan.