Friday, September 23, 2005

Eminent Domain and Aqua Indiana

I was annexed into the City of Fort Wayne Jan 1st, 2003.

I live on the north side of town near Pine Valley. My Water service and part of my sewer service is provided by Aqua Indiana.

In 2002 The City of Fort Wayne started a legal action to seize Aqua Indiana (The north division in Allen County) by EMINENT DOMAIN.

I sat down and talked to Ted Nitza (The Water Resources Program Manager for Fort Wayne) about this use of Eminent Domain by the city of Fort Wayne. We talked for about an hour on the morning of September 23rd.

To make a long story short, the City of Fort Wayne thinks they can do a better job of providing service to the 8000 affected customers. They feel that they can combine the two utility services and save rate payers money on future capital improvements.

I am really not qualified to determine if Ted Nitza is correct. I have to say, I am skeptical. I just have a hard time trusting a City that annexed me and immediately raised my property taxes 31% (My property taxes were raised a total of 63% that year between the City and Re-assessment) in the first year.

That being said, I am currently a customer of Aqua Indiana. I am happy with Aqua Indiana. I would think that the City of Fort Wayne would do a survey of the 8000 customers and see what these 8000 customers want. That is Democracy...

That of course has not been done... That makes way too much sense.

What scares me about the Eminent Domain action against a successful local utility is the implications to local businesses.

What would happen if the City decided it could better perform other functions then private enterprises? For example, the City currently runs a bus system that is ridden by very few people and wastes a large amount of taxpayer dollars today. What would happen if The City decided to expand its bus service in an attempt to utilize the busses more efficiently? Maybe they would decide to seize Turnstone or a similar company using Eminent Domain on the basis that The City of Fort Wayne could transport people better then a private company. What would we think of an action like that?

What would happen if the City decided it should take over transportation for all school kids in The City limits? What if the City decided it could provide better taxi service. You get the idea.

Fort Wayne in not efficient. That has been proven by the property tax increases immediately seen by all the citizens who have been annexed against their will... Lets keep The City of Fort Wayne out of private businesses and lets unite and elect new City officials who will use Eminent Domain as a LAST resort.

This is a dangerous situation that needs to be monitored.

I can tell you when this situation may really get out of hand. If Fort Wayne is successful against Aqua Indiana North; then they may well decide to go after the Aqua Indiana utility in Aboite. The people in Aboite would just love that.


Mike Kole said...

Your experience with annexion is typical- the tax rate goes up, and in exchange, you see very little different in terms of services received.

Shawn Grubbs said...

As usual you are right on. There hasn't been enough attention on this issue and I am glad you mentioned it.

jnet-the-jet said...

They are annexing BUSINESSES now, not for their land but to RUN THE BUSINESS merged with their own competing city service??? Why am I shocked? Government ownership of business and means of production ring a bell?
This is a major announcement - has it been in the news or do you have the scoop? Mike, you need to write this up, a little better, and submit it as a letter to the editor of all the local papers.
I was frustrated that you had an hour long conversation the the government official Ditka-whatsisname but didn't give us any quotes. You also should talk with the owner of your the private water company Aqua-whatever.
Getting either or both on the public access talk show, Libertarian Perspectives show would be great -- can you arrange that?

LP Mike Sylvester said...

It has been in the news a lot over the last three years. It is a major court case. I would guess that everyone that reads the newspaper knows a lot about this. There have been several articles about it.

I plan on trying to talk to Aqua source. Doug Horner plans on interviewing some people on the show about Eminent Domain. I know he is considering interviewing Diana Kruse involving her Eminent Domain issue with the City of Fort Wayne.

I am currently doing a lot of research on Eminent Domain. I recently filed a "Freedom of Information Request" with The City of Fort Wayne. It will take me a few weeks or longer to gather the information on Eminent Domain I am trying to gather.

I am going to France (Yes in Europe) at the end of next week for 10 days; so I do not have time to do a whole lot of detailed research at this time.

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