Impact study of potential water/MSD merger set for release

A draft economic-impact study of the potential merger of the Asheville water system with the Metropolitan Sewerage District of Buncombe County will be available next week, according to MSD General Manager Tom Hartye. The study will evaluate cost issues, capital improvements, existing debt service and other financial liabilities.

The draft report is the topic for a rescheduled meeting of the MSD board’s planning committee, now taking place at noon on Wednesday, November 14. The committee meeting will directly precede the MSD board’s monthly meeting at 2 p.m., at MSD’s administrative headquarters, 2028 Riverside Drive.

Hartye told the Xpress he expects to have the draft document available on the MSD website by Monday, November 12. Completion of the document was briefly delayed by the severe storm damage last week in the New York area, where Malcolm Pirnie/Arcadis—the firm awarded the study contract—is based.

The MSD study was undertaken following a legislative study committee report earlier this year, which took place under the chairmanship of Buncombe County Republican Rep. Tim Moffitt. The delayed discussion now takes place in the wake of a water-issue referendum placed on the general election ballot by Asheville City Council. That vote reported 85-14 percent opposition in the city to the sale or lease of the water system. (The referendum outcome is nonbinding in the face of a future legislative mandate).

The draft is a first-phase report regarding the merger possibility. Phase two will evaluate the potential merger of the Weaverville, Biltmore Forest and Montreat systems with the agency. Those towns were the only municipalities in Buncombe County that opted to be included in the study; they are not officially part of the merger being propelled by the legislature (see “MSD Awards Contract…,” July 19, 2012, Xpress).

by Nelda Holder, contributing editor

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