Friday, September 25, 2015

Citizens Energy Seeking More Than 50% Increase In Wastewater Fees

If Citizens Energy gets its way, your wastewater bills you pay along with your water bills will increase by more than 50% over the next two years, increasing average monthly fees from $35 a month to $48 a month. When you add the double-digit increases approved following the purchase of the water and wastewater utilities from the City of Indianapolis, wastewater fees will have tripled since 2011.

Advance Indiana was alone in warning Indianapolis residents that the sale of the water and wastewater utilities to Citizens Energy was nothing more than a massive fraud on the public to flip the utility's ownership for the third time in a period of a decade simply for the purpose of generating multi-million dollar payoffs to the corrupt SOBs who use Indianapolis' consolidated government as their personal profit center to the detriment of the city's residents.

That absurd sale required Citizens Energy, which is allegedly a public benefit corporation, to grossly overpay the City for the utility for the sole purpose of creating a half billion dollar pot of money Mayor Greg Ballard could use to pass out to his campaign contributors to win re-election in 2011. The Attorney General brought civil RICO charges against City of East Chicago officials for conducting similar schemes for electoral victories in a scandal dubbed "Sidewalks for Votes." But the state's Attorney General, our Marion Co. Prosecutor and federal prosecutor all turn a blind eye to all of the corruption taking place in Indianapolis because they are personally beholden to the people stealing from us.

The quid pro quos from that 2011 deal were unmistakable. Two key council members who steered approval of the deal through the council, former CCC President Ryan Vaughn and Councilor Jackie Nytes, were subsequently awarded with big six-figure jobs. Nytes got the CEO job at the Indianapolis/Marion County Public Libary and a paid board position on Citizens Energy. Vaughn was awarded with the job as executive director of the Indiana Sports Corporation after a short stay in a six-figure job as the mayor's chief of staff. Vaughn's law firm employer, Barnes & Thornburg, represented Viola, the private operator of the water utility, which was rewarded with a $29 million break-up fee despite overwhelming evidence it had repeatedly breached its operating agreement with the utility and fraudulently overbilled Indianapolis water customers. Prosecutors refused to investigate allegations Vaughn illegally took actions to benefit Barnes & Thornburg and its clients while serving as the council president.

Other rumors about about payoffs, kickbacks and bribes accompanying the City's approval of the sale of the water and wastewater utilities have been ignored by federal and state prosecutors, and our worthless local media true to form has refused to allocate any resources to investigate the allegations for the benefit of the public. Whistle blowers who've complain to prosecutors are ignored. This traces all the way back to the original sale of the water company to NiSource. At that time, the utility was run by James Morris. Yes, that James Morris who has been at the center of the hundreds of millions of dollars in shakedowns in his role as Pacers Sports & Entertainment CEO to provide subsidies to the Pacers.

By state law, the utility should have been offered to sale to Citizens Energy before any other buyer. That law was ignored not once but twice. The second sale was made to the City of Indianapolis under Mayor Bart Peterson, who conspired with former CCC President Beurt SerVaas to purchase the utility for an inflated price from NiSource after it was stripped of its most valuable, profit-making assets. NiSource paid $288 million for the water utility, sold off assets worth about $100 million, neglected infrastructure needs and then sold the water utility a few years later to the City for $525 million. The City had to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars to begin dealing with the ignored infrastructure needs, in addition to paying a hefty annual fee to a private operator. The City had already privatized wastewater management services to United Water back under the Goldsmith administration, which was supposed to achieve savings that never materialized.

Morris, who had received more than $6 million of the $20 million paid to the utilities' executives as part of their golden parachute packages, was also rewarded with a lucrative seat on NiSource's board of directors. Both Peterson and SerVaas had personal business interests that created a conflict of interest for them, neither of which disclosed those conflicts. The two then agreed to turn over its operation to the French company, Veolia, on one-sided terms in favor of Veolia. The privatization deal was accompanied by more payoffs and kickbacks to the usual suspects.

By the time Citizens Energy had acquired the water and wastewater utilities, there was nearly $1.5 billion in debt. There was no justification for a sale merely assuming the debt, let alone the half billion dollar cash premium Citizens Energy added to the pot, further burdening the nonprofit utility with debt that is now being passed on to consumers, whose water rates have tripled and now the wastewater rates will have tripled. Citizens Energy has created dozens of high-paying jobs for political insiders as favors to the downtown mafia. Additionally, the utility blows an absurd amount of money on advertising and corporate entertaining, including suites and premium seats at Lucas Oil Stadium and Banker's Life Fieldhouse, none of which provide any benefit to consumers.

This is what happens when you live in a City where nothing but crooks who steal our public assets are allowed to hold positions in our local government and when you have a news media that aids and abets the thieves and crooks every step of the way. The little people get stiffed at every turn, and the fat cats keep getting richer and richer as we suffer through it. When will the people of this city finally get fed up enough about always getting the short end of the stick and do something about it? You sure as hell aren't going to get any help from the people you've entrusted to run your government.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Pretty good reporting and analysis, naming and shaming these assholes is a fine public service.

Sir Hailstone said...

I saw that City to Citizens deal for what it was when it was announced - nothing more than a left hand - right hand deal with a little three-card-monty thrown in for good measure. Same garbage we have now in Westfield where Mayor Andy Crook sold the water and sewer to Citizens in exchange for some asphalt and an overpriced park.

Yes, the sewers in the older parts of the city needed desperate upgrades. The can was kicked down the road by the City for decades. That bill is now due and the feds are not allowing any more extensions.

Anonymous said...

Why do we have a City County Council other than to hear them shriek, moan, bitch, and fake complain but ultimately do absolutely nothing about the corruption endemic to the process and to both of their political parties?

Why do we have a Prosecutor other than to watch an aging white male attorney aggressively manhunt the low hanging easy to snatch fruit but do absolutely nothing about the plain-in-Noon-day corruption against "the people"?

When it comes right down to it, there's not a dime's worth of difference between a liberal Democrat and an establishment Republican... and we the people know it. Whether it is that gaggle at the Indy Chamber led by uber-politico "the fix is in" Melissa Proffitt [a poignant reminder of why I am disgusted to my entrails with attorneys of her ilk] or any of the Democrat or Republican Greg Ballard-twins running for mayor of Corruption City.... Indianapolis circles the drain and the Disney Downtown and the churning of public utilities is not going to end well at all.


The "I want to live in downtown Indy, cost and convenience not an issue, because it's so cool" mentality ended a while back... that's my position. The slow-down or reversal is in progress, it's jus being hidden quite well for the moment.

Guest said...

The Star News is too busy promoting its gay agenda.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you said we should do something about this. I often wonder what to do!
Please give me a list of five things I can do on an ongoing basis to bring these crimes
to the attention of those who might have power and authority to do something about it.
I am a regular citizen and would like to help with solutions, but do not have any knowledge
of how to go about doing that. You might also consider including suggestions for action
in your blog posts periodically. People need to be educated about their role in resolving these
issues, and you seem to be a person who might know how to help us learn.

Anonymous said...

Excellent, excellent analysis.

Why do we have a City County Council? Why do we have a Prosecutor? Why do we have a legal system? Why do we have a municipal charter?

Not one of the above seem to be in working order... and yet we taxpayers are forced to write these Democrats and Republicans their paychecks... go figure.

Anonymous said...

Rate payers should organize and refuse to pay starting with the November or December bill.

Flogger said...

I recently watched a nature program on a huge Bait ball of Sardines migrating on the west coast of South Africa. It was remarkable. The sardines were attacked by various predators whales, sharks, dolphins, and birds on their journey that savaged their ranks.

We the 99% in Marion County are the sardine bait ball being attacked constantly by our elected, appointed, and Crony-Capitalist predators and parasites. The intellectually vacant McMega-Media stands by and watches the attack as the nature photographers observe the feeding frenzy on the sardine bait ball. There is no Crony-Capitalist scheme that is too extreme for the predators and parasites.

Brian Wells said...

We all saw this coming. I didn't think it would happen so fast. Citizens gets 3X water rates and 3X wastewater rates. IPL gets 1.5X residential electric rates (from 6.7c/kWh to 9.3c/kWh... and they're being totally "mum" on the future of "variable rate trackers"....), City of Indianapolis gets 2X on the stormwater fee on the property tax bills. And, as you say, what benefit do the individual ratepayers / taxpayers get out of any of this? A big tunnel in the ground to help the neighborhoods that weren't built properly a century ago deal with storm water -- suburban neighborhoods installed retention ponds at great private expense -- maybe the city neighborhoods should have done the same. But, now we all are paying the price.

Downtown Indy said...

Everyone should also check closely on the 'rainwater runoff assessement' being charged. I am being told I have 8900 Sq Ft of 'impervious area' (they have the gall to count a gravel driveway as being impervious, just like asphalt or concrete). My actual measurement of the property worked out to a little over 5,000 Sq Ft. So their satellite map calculations are wildly inflated.

Downtown Indy said...

The thing I forgot in my previous comment is that the runoff from my part of town is into various creeks, ultimately winding up in White River. It never even touches a Citizens sewer along the way.

Anonymous said...

"ultimately winding up in White River. It never even touches a Citizens sewer along the way."

The White River *IS* the sewer

Anonymous said...

Gary, do you know what Citizens used to justify this huge increase? If it is truly for the tunnels, as the reports say, Citizens will get every penny. I could be wrong, I don't remember the City saying at the time they were selling DigIndy that sewer rates would ever to that high. DigIndy costs have been known for many years even before Citizens took over the water and wastewater utilities. And I thought they already had approved rate increases (coming) to cover those massive bond payments. Is this a part something more?

Gary R. Welsh said...

Before the sale, they spent a lot of time bragging about how much money the guy who was Ballard's first DPW director, the one who got a sweet job at United Water after Goldsmith privatized the wastewater operations during his administration, had saved them by redoing whatever work the Peterson administration had planned on the project. Is all I know is that the big dig project is making multi-millionaires of several people at our expense because of all of the corrupt deals taking place under the guise of complying with EPA standards. They never honestly answered questions about future rate increases during the sale to Citizens Energy. We were told flat out that because of the sale, rate increases would be lower than projected, which was a big fat lie because Citizens Energy could operate the utilities so much much efficiently.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it a damn shame Gary Welsh is not the Mayor of Indianapolis?

On a few weak, ill-informed occasions I opined that a couple of Councilors should consider a mayoral run but now? Not so much, in fact... not at all. In light of the do-nothing outcomes of Vision Fleet and Blue Indy (citing only two flagrantly illegal corrupt deals about which an impotent Council did freakin' nothing effective and I have to believe they knew their actions would be meaningless), I suggest that Indianapolis voters consider abolishing the City County Council completely.

Yes, disband completely these puppets we call The City County Council.

Who needs a Council that regularly gets paid (some above the table, others...) but gathers its skirts and runs when the bully-emperor bellows and blusters?

As for Indianapolis Water Company sale(s) corruption, Gary, you are 1000% correct on everything. Indianapolis ratepayers have been cheated and lied to and the Democrats hide behind the Republican mayor all the while both "sides" are corrupt.

Gary Welsh for Mayor! Not one other Councilor or out-of-towner is worthy of the seat.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for mentioning the names of two former CC Councilors I consider among the most corrupt, devious, and willing to be bought-and-paid-for politicians. These two charlatans are among the most nefarious, money-grubbing, power-mad politicos who prove to me that here in Indianapolis one must be a political whore (apologies to whores) in order to rise to ludicrous salaries and "perks" and positions.

Pete Boggs said...

Utility CEO's are make believe statism in all its excess. Consumers don't have competitive options. These "CEO's" don't run a Fortune 500 competitive enterprise- they're managers, of a public trust.

Utilities need to be regulated by citizen boards; not the political patronage schemes which are home to this excess.

LamLawIndy said...

Where did you find your "rainwater runoff assessment," btw?

LamLawIndy said...

I will admit that -- based on my previous good experience with Citizens Gas -- I thought the sale was a good idea. Obviously, the sale will now come back to bite me in the butt...

Brian Wells said...

Good catch. It will be based on the new price list published by the City Of Indianapolis. The old pricing was a flat rate of 2.25 per month or 27.00 per year. The new pricing is based on impervious surface area, billed at 1.10 per month per 1000 sq feet (side note: 1000 sq ft is also referred to a Base Billing Unit or BBU). Impervious surface area is not just your house square footage. Impervious surface area is actually based on the cumulative total first floor square footage of your house, plus your porch, plus your sidewalk, plus your patio, plus your driveway, plus anything else you may have on your property. The number of BBU's is determined based upon satellite imagery that calculates the total impervious surface area on your property. On my property, a simple 1,824 square foot single story ranch home on a 10,489 square foot lot in a southeast Indianapolis (Franklin Township), with a driveway, sidewalk, small concrete patio, but no barn or swimming pool, the city calculates that I am in the 4 BBU category. So, my storm water fee from now on will be 4 BBU's @ $1.10 per month, for a monthly total of $4.40 per month. Over the course of a year, it adds up to $52.80, which is 95% higher than the $27.00 a year I was laying before. You can see the pricing for your property at the following website: http://maps.indy.gov/MapIndy/Index.html?theme=ImperviousAreas

Josh said...

I wonder if they also own the Bicknell water plant, where citizens pay $60 a month, sewage included.

Pete Boggs said...

The rainwater runoff scam arrived with property tax bills; yet another fee / tax escalator on property ownership.