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Town sues to gain water utility

– A central Indiana town worried about rising water rates is trying to regain control of its water utility by invoking eminent domain in a rare legal move tested just once before in the state.

Mooresville officials sued Indiana American Water in late December after the town’s attempt to purchase the utility for $6.5 million failed, the Indianapolis Business Journal reported.

Chris Janak, an attorney representing Mooresville, said he thinks legal precedent is on the town’s side after a 10-year fight in Fort Wayne, where officials dissatisfied with service attempted to use eminent domain to force a sale of part of Aqua America’s service area. The Indiana Supreme Court and the General Assembly have both weighed in on that battle in recent years.

“I think the path is pretty clear,” Janak said. “Mooresville is allowed by law to do this.”

The lawsuit comes as residents complain the utility has raised rates and plans to again but hasn’t invested in the town’s water infrastructure.

Indiana American Water says the average customer in Mooresville pays about $35 per month, which would rise to $39 with its plans to improve infrastructure.

Indiana American has served Mooresville since buying Hoosier Water Co. in 2000.