Changing of the water guard

After losing Asheville’s mayoral election to Leni Sitnick, Charles Worley promised that his longstanding community service would continue. And he’s wasted little time taking steps to keep his word.

The outgoing City Council appointed him to serve on the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. And Sitnick let stand Worley’s 1995 appointments to several Council subcommittees, including the Civic Center Future Task Force, and his formal appointment to the Regional Water Authority of Asheville, Buncombe and Henderson.

Now, you can add “chairman” to his long list of positions in the city cogwheels. At their Dec. 16 meeting, Water Authority members unanimously chose Worley to serve as their chair, replacing Ernest Ferguson, whose term ends Dec. 31.

Nominated by Vollie Good, with a second from Wendell Begley, Worley just smiled … especially when Ferguson teased, “Gosh, Charlie, no dissenting votes!”

Other Authority news

Haywood Street project postponed

Downtown businesses and residents who were worried about having Haywood Street torn up all winter can relax for now: Authority members have decided to postpone water-line replacements for the road.

“The [construction] bids were quite higher than we expected,” explained Interim Water Resources Director Doug Spell, who’s also Asheville’s assistant city manager.

The lowest bid, from Cooper Construction, totaled $1.6 million. That includes laying lines on Biltmore Avenue ($550,131) and Haywood Street ($922,828), as well as sidewalk costs for Haywood ($183,098). But the city had budgeted less than $800,000 for the Haywood portion of the project.

Spell recommended awarding only the Biltmore contract to Cooper and delaying action on the Haywood Street work. The Authority might later be able to share the cost of the Haywood work with utility companies that have work planned for that part of downtown, Spell suggested.

“It would be nice if we could do all that at the same time,” Ferguson responded.

Waiting for a grant

The Authority also delayed action on moving and upgrading pesticide-mixing stations on the Mills River, just upstream of the new Mills River Treatment Plant. Authority member Wendell Begley, who chairs the Budget Subcommittee, reported that a $190,000 grant application to the Clean Water Management Trust Fund of North Carolina was submitted by staff before Dec. 1.

The grant funds could pay for moving and upgrading the stations, which have been identified as potential sources of chemical contamination. Begley indicated that the Authority should know by April whether it will receive the grant.

Authority member Tom Sobol noted, “This problem’s not going to go away in April. In the event this grant doesn’t go through, we’ll still have to deal with this.”

The grant would pay for four mixing-station upgrades: two at Warren Farm ($97,800) and two at Gaither Johnson Brothers Farm ($71,200), Spell indicated.

Vacancy on Authority

The at-large terms of Ernest Ferguson and Rick Maas expire on Dec. 31, leaving a vacancy on the Authority.

The two were first appointed six years ago, in a compromise double-appointment for the at-large slot.

Authority member Charles Worley recommended that the vacancy be advertised, with a Dec. 31 cutoff. A subcommittee could determine which candidates to interview at the Authority’s Jan. 20 meeting, he suggested.

Members agreed.

Worley noted that the Authority has already received the nomination of one candidate, Leslee Thornton. A professional engineer with a degree from Purdue, Thornton is pursuing graduate-level environmental-engineering studies through UNCA, where she works at the Environmental Quality Institute.

About Margaret Williams
Editor Margaret Williams first wrote for Xpress in 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987 and completed her Masters of Liberal Arts & Sciences from UNC-Asheville in 2016. Follow me @mvwilliams

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