PARTS OF HENDERSON COUNTY, PARICULARLY THE FLETCHER AND MILLS RIVER AREAS, COULD BE EFFECTED
(From WHKP News and Ashville Citizen-Times Reports)
Asheville's North Fork Reservoir
A water-sewer merger proposal that would offer the city $57 million in compensation for its water system continued to move forward Friday afternoon.
And a state legislator made it clear than any merger bill likely will include the Cane Creek Water & Sewer District in Henderson County in addition to the Asheville Water Resources Department and the Buncombe County Metropolitan Sewerage District.
The Metropolitan Sewerage District planning committee voted 6-2 in favor of sending the proposal to MSD’s full board for consideration at its next meeting, Dec. 12. Planning Board members Chris Pelly and Esther Manheimer, who also serve on Asheville City Council, voted against the proposal.
Manheimer stressed that City Council and 86 percent of city voters in a recent referendum oppose any takeover of the city’s water system. An overflow crowd attended Friday’s meeting at MSD’s administration building on Riverside Drive.
She also suggested MSD should not move forward on any plans until City Council receives its consultant’s study on the merger proposal at council’s Dec. 11 meeting.
In November, MSD received its consultant’s report, which suggested operational savings and even reduced rates could be possible under a merger. That report did not address the issue of compensation, though.
Besides the compensation figure, MSD’s merger proposal also includes paying off the city system’s $71 million in debt, adopting its $107 million capital improvement program and retaining all employees. The city also would retain title to its reservoirs and watershed lands, with MSD leasing them.
State Rep. Tim Moffitt, R-Buncombe, likely will introduce merger legislation in late January or early February, shortly after the General Assembly convenes. State Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, who attended Friday’s meeting, is meeting with local legislators now and working with bill-writing staff in the legislature.
McGrady recently said some type of compensation is probably inevitable...there are hundreds of acres of reservoir and watershed land involved in the Asheville water system. It is not yet clear how any possible compensation will be structured, or who will pay it.
The Fletcher and Mills River areas in Henderson County would most likely be involved because of their involvement with the MSD, or Cane Creek Water and Sewer District.
Representative McGrady has also been meeting with Mills River, Henderson County, Hendersonville and Fletcher officials to keep then all informed on developments with the possible merger.
The ultimate goal of such a merger is to keep water and sewer prices as low as possible, while making the water and sewer systems that serve larger areas in the region more "regional" in nature.