A due-diligence document posted July 31 in a comment to the Mountain Xpress website (see “City Will Go Forward With Referendum on Water System Transfer”), revealed potential costs of information technology in the proposed transfer of the Asheville water system to the Metropolitan Sewerage District of Buncombe County. But the $1.74 million figure quoted was somewhat misleading.
The “IT Due Diligence” study cited included an estimated range of $435,000 to $1,735,000 for the potential consolidation of city and MSD technology infrastructure. That would include outlay for computers, billing system and software. The consolidation was a legislative study committee recommendation during the past session of the N.C. General Assembly.
“This [document] is preliminary information,” explains Tom Hartye, MSD’s general manager. It was gathered in preparation for the water-sewer consolidation impact study approved at the July 18 meeting of the MSD board (see “MSD Awards Contract…,” July 19 Xpress). That fuller study will attempt gage the overall costs of a merger of the two entities. According to Hartye, the IT projection was developed by a subconsultant in order to have as much information as possible ready for the impact study itself. (See “Reluctant Partners,” August 1 Xpress.)
The IT budget for a merger, adds Hartye, could be “easily offset by the costs the water department is paying right now.” The annual budget for technology expenses by the water department is $550,000, he says, and is paid to the city of Asheville.
Up to this point, MSD has not projected a rate increase or decrease based on a merger of the two systems. Hartye expects the upcoming impact study’s figures for repair and replacement of the water equipment will be the driving force in any rate decisions. “When that decision gets addressed, that’s probably going to be the biggest driver of what the rates are going to be,” he says.
by Nelda Holder, contributing editor