CHARLESTOWN, Ind. (WDRB) -- After decades of problems with brown water, the City of Charlestown struck a deal Thursday to sell its water system.

For most customers on city water, that means rates will more than double. This will affect 2,900 customer's water bills, and it means most will jump by $26 per month.

"I am concerned, confused and overwhelmed that someone would do this to our town," said Charlestown resident Darlene Williams. "This is a sad day for Charlestown."

The city council voted 4-1 to sell the city's water utility to Indiana American Water for $13.4 million. It's a plan the local group, NOW (No Outsourcing Water), which is spearheaded by Williams, is ready to fight with a petition campaign.

"You're gonna have to decide if you want water or if you want to eat," Williams said. "It's sad."

As Mayor Bob Hall explained, an average 5,000-gallon user currently pays $18 per month. He said rates will increase to $44 monthly, but without the sale, rates would have jumped to $53.

"The math of it's a no-brainer," Hall said. "You do the math, and it's the right thing to do."

Indiana American Water promises to invest $7.2 million over the next five years to fix the city's poor water quality. Hall said those fixes were going to cost customers either way.

"Something the water customers is going to gain is a company with the wherewithal to improve the infrastructure and the quality of water, something we have struggled with for decades," he said.

The new rates only affect customers on the city's water utility. Part of the sale's proceeds will go toward customer rate credits to help offset the new costs.

"Twenty dollars a month for the adjustment, $15 the following year, $10, then $5 to ease into it over the next four years so people can adjust their budgets accordingly," Hall said.

The plan must be approved by the state. If that happens, new rates won't take effect until next year.

The rate increases will not affect Charlestown township residents who use Watson Water Company. President Denny Hill told WDRB News that several Watson customers were mistakenly mailed information from Indiana American Water that said their water utility was being sold.

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