Asheville City Council preview: After the report

Before the Dec. 11 Asheville City Council meeting, staff will present a long-awaited report on a possible merger of the city’s water system. The agenda also has plenty to consider, including the appointment of a board for the downtown Business Improvement District, tougher conservation easement rules for the watershed and a trolley bicycle service.

Since a state legislative study committee led by Rep. Tim Moffitt delivered their demand that the city system come under the control of the Metropolitan Sewerage District, city staff and the Raftellis consulting firm have been compiling their own report, which will put a value on the city water system while suggesting possible models for governance and compensation in the event of a possible merger. MSD has already released its initial report and a proposal for compensation of the city.

The city’s report, released late Friday afternoon, finds that MSD taking over the water system will benefit sewer ratepayers but negatively impact water ratepayers and city taxpayers. The most beneficial model, it suggests, is a local agreement between the two entities that results in more efficiency while avoiding the costs of a merger. City staff will present the report in a pre-meeting work session at 3:30 p.m.

The proposal remains highly contentious. Opponents, including Council member Chris Pelly, held a “Defend Our Water” rally Dec. 8. At the Dec. 11 meeting, Council will consider new rules for the watershed, strengthening an existing conservation easement.

Council approved the BID — a controversial proposal for a special tax district funding an independent non-profit downtown — in October, but many steps still remain before the entity is up and running, including the appointment of its initial board. The 14 proposed board members include some from the interim board that crafted the BID along with supporters of the proposal and others prominent in downtown’s power structure. Council will consider the final bylaws, tax rate, and funding for the BID as part of its budget planning process next Spring.

As if all that wasn’t enough, Council will also consider the “pub cycle” bicycle trolley business, a new building at A-B Tech, and new lighting rules.

Asheville City Council meets at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 11 on the second floor of City Hall. The pre-meeting work session will take place in the first floor conference room.

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