WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE COUNTY COMMISSIONER'S ATTEMPT TO TAKE AWAY CONTROL OF HENDERSONVILLE'S WATER SYSTEM?

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE COUNTY COMMISSIONER'S ATTEMPT TO TAKE AWAY CONTROL OF HENDERSONVILLE'S WATER SYSTEM? WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE COUNTY COMMISSIONER'S ATTEMPT TO TAKE AWAY CONTROL OF HENDERSONVILLE'S WATER SYSTEM?

LAUNCHED LAST WINTER BY COUNTY COMMISSIONER BILL LAPSLEY.

 REP. MCGRADY'S HOUSE BILL "H 718" CREATED A LEGISLATIVE STUDY COMMITTEE

AFTER BEING QUIET AND OFF THE FRONT PAGES FOR A COUPLE OF MONTHS, HENDERSONVILLE’S WATER ISSUE IS NOT OVER YET

Now that this year’s work in the General Assembly is mostly over, we can expect---soon---a legislative study committee to be appointed that will look into the rates charged by municipal water systems statewide in North Carolina. That committee will also be looking into the possible transfer of public enterprises, such as local municipal water departments. That legislative committee is supposed to conclude its study and have its findings ready before the General Assembly goes back to work early in 2018.

This is the result of state house bill “H 718”, introduced by Henderson County’s Representative Chuck McGrady and included in the new state budget.

“H 718”, and this legislative study, is the “end result” of the criticism leveled back in March at the Hendersonville Water Department by county commissioner, public engineer, and former water department employee Bill Lapsley. In a lengthy presentation to the full board of commissioners, Lapsley argued, back in March, that 75 per cent of Hendersonville’s water customers live outside the city and are not adequately represented in rate-setting and other water department decisions. His solution was: legislation that would put the Hendersonville Water Department under the control of the seven-member North Carolina Utilities Commission and, essentially, take control away from the elected city council and mayor.
Lapsley’s proposal was supported by three of the five county commissioners....Commissioners Hawkins, Edney, and Lapsley...who endorsed that proposed legislation. Commissioner Hawkins referred to Hendersonville’s ownership and operation of its water department as a “monopoly”.,

The proposal drew swift, strong, and vocal opposition from the City of Hendersonville, that has owned and operated its water system for about one hundred years and will soon, at the request of Laurel Park Town Council, likely be merging the two water systems.

In the three months that followed the stage being set for that epic “city-county” confrontation, no legislation was introduced to take control of the city’s water department away...and “H 718”, and the upcoming legislative study, emerged instead.

Representative McGrady recently told WHKP News in a text message, “I think the city needs to figure out some way to allow 75 per cent of its customers that are not city residents to have some say in the operation of the water department, except where the City of Asheville has water lines that are close by.”

The members of this legislative study committee will be appointed by the state house and senate, and McGrady says he expects he’ll chair that committee. McGrady adds, “There are no provisions (in H 718) related specifically to Asheville or Hendersonville...but it could produce legislation.”

The City of Hendersonville is reportedly forming an advisory group comprised of local municipalities for input on water department issues.

Much of the controversy over control of Hendersonville’s water department earlier this year goes back to a legislative attempt several years ago to strip the City of Asheville of ownership of its water department. That attempt passed in the General Assembly, but was later struck down by the courts.

So...expect that legislative study committee to be appointed and go to work soon and any recommendations or legislation relating to the City of Hendersonville’s Water Department likely won’t be forthcoming before early 2018.

By WHKP News Director Larry Freeman  07/05/17