As a forcible transfer of Asheville’s water system to the Metropolitan Sewerage District clears its last legislative hurdles in Raleigh, city staff say relinquishing the system by May 15, as the bill requires, is an administrative impossibility. So what happens to the city’s water system in two weeks?
“That’s a good question,” Water Resources Director Steve Shoaf tells Xpress. “I’m not sure what the May 15 date really means. It’s going to be up to the two organizations to figure it out. Any reasonable person is going to consider that this is going to take some time to pull off.”
“You’re taking two organizations with fairly large operations and trying to merge them in one day; that’s not going to happen,” Shoaf adds. He believes “there will be some sort of step-wise process.”
MSD Manager Tom Hartye was more circumspect when asked about the details of a transfer.
“It’s a little premature to talk about, but we are preparing for eventualities,” Hartye says. “Once the political and legal process has run its course, we’ll be ready.”
“The intent on both MSD and the city’s side is that there’s no impact on the customers,” Shoaf says.
The city’s current budget assumes that the water system will remain in their hands at least until the start of the fiscal year in July, due to a transfer remaining tied up in the courts or administrative difficulties. Legal action is a strong possibility, and at an April 23 budget work session Mayor Terry Bellamy publicly said she’d support suing the state.