For the second time, the Indiana Supreme Court next week will hear arguments on a legal issue surrounding the citys 2002 eminent domain takeover of the Aqua Indiana northern utility.
It probably wont be the last time this case goes to the court. And it probably will be a long time before the city makes any effort to take over the southwest Aqua Indiana utility.
In 2007, the Supreme Court upheld the citys takeover of Aqua Indiana north. While that settled the legal dispute over the citys authority to declare eminent domain and take over the utility, the price the city must pay is still in dispute.
Though the states highest court will hear legal arguments Sept. 27, the court still will not set the price. The issue now before the court is a Utility Center appeal of a judges ruling that the judge will determine the price after a hearing, and the issue will not go to a trial before a jury. The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld that ruling, noting that the role of the lower court is to hear an appeal of the Board of Public Works administrative decision to set the price. The judge should examine how the board of works made its decision but not hear testimony and start from scratch in setting a price.
If the Indiana Supreme Court sides with the city, which seems likely, the case goes back to the county court. After that decision is inevitably appealed, the case could well go to the Supreme Court a third time.
The city offered Aqua Indiana $10 million for the northern utility and began eminent domain proceedings after the offer was rejected. In 2003, the board of works voted to buy the utility for $17.2 million – the average of two independent appraisals. But the case remained tied up in court, and a year later the board sought new, updated appraisals. The results of those appraisals brought the price down to $14.8 million.
The court case is vital for any effort by the city to buy the southwest utility, and its doubtful any action will occur before a final court ruling. If the courts uphold the $14.8 million price, that will give the city leverage in negotiations to buy the company or again to declare eminent domain. If the courts order a higher price, Aqua Indiana gains the leverage and the city could well drop any attempts to buy the southwest utility.
Stay tuned – for a few more years.
GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock has changed his no compromises campaign theme to try to sell himself as someone willing to seek bipartisan solutions.
Yet when asked at a recent news conference to name one Democratic senator he could work with on issues, Mourdock was at a loss. He couldnt think of any.