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Henry: This is about public health and public safety

Statement as issued by the city of Fort Wayne:

Fort Wayne, Ind. – Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry today announced the City of Fort Wayne will move forward to condemn Aqua Indiana's water utility in southwest Fort Wayne.

Since Mayor Henry took office in 2008, he has been committed to finding a solution to water challenges faced by residents in the Aqua Indiana service area in southwest Fort Wayne. Mayor Henry strongly supports efforts to provide residents with reliable and quality water at an affordable price.

At today's news conference, Mayor Henry emphasized that the City has done everything it can to reach an agreement with Aqua Indiana at this time. To this point, the City and Aqua Indiana have not been able to agree on the future of water service in southwest Fort Wayne.

Mayor Henry expressed concerns about Aqua Indiana's inability to meet water demands during this past summer's drought. In addition, Mayor Henry does not believe Aqua Indiana has a suitable plan in place to meet the current and long-term needs of customers in southwest Fort Wayne.

"We have been patient with Aqua Indiana, but now is the time to take action. This is about public health and public safety. Those issues cannot be compromised. We must ensure that residents and public safety officials have access to a water supply that is dependable and can meet the water pressure demands of our growing community," said Mayor Henry. "City Utilities is in much better position to provide reliable and quality water to customers at an affordable price. As Mayor, I will continue to fight for residents so they can receive the water they have asked for and deserve."

During this past summer's drought, Fort Wayne City Utilities assisted Aqua Indiana by providing water to approximately 1,300 customers due to Aqua Indiana's inability to meet water needs and demands. Many of those customers were recently surveyed by City Utilities and gave high praise for the City's quality of water, taste and water pressure and 91% were very supportive of efforts to receive water from the City on a permanent basis. To date, more than 20 neighborhood associations served by Aqua Indiana have separately submitted petitions requesting a change to City Utilities.

A firm hired to audit Aqua Indiana's facilities found that Aqua Indiana needs additional water supply capacity now and in the future. The audit concluded that a new well installed by Aqua Indiana was not an in-kind replacement for the connection to Fort Wayne. Further, the audit concluded that significant questions remain and conclusive answers could not be determined without more investigation. Assistance from City Utilities might be necessary again if peak demands experienced this past summer return again next year.

Aqua Indiana currently serves 12,000 water customers in southwest Fort Wayne, with 70% of those customers residing inside City limits. By switching to water provided by City Utilities, the average Aqua Indiana customer in southwest Fort Wayne would save between $160-$220 annually. In addition, many customers of City Utilities find it unnecessary to use a water softener or use of such devices can be substantially reduced. This results in even more savings for customers of City Utilities. Previous Aqua Indiana customers in northern Fort Wayne, transferred to City Utilities in 2008, have saved an average of more than $2,000 since the transition.

By the end of the year, the City will present to City Council a recommendation to begin the condemnation process. Even though condemnation will be pursued, the City will continue to be open to negotiations with Aqua Indiana in efforts to reach an agreement to meet the needs of water customers in southwest Fort Wayne who currently do not have access to City water.

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