With a third short session convening Nov. 7, the N.C. General Assembly's leadership has now announced a fourth, slated for Nov. 28-30. Meanwhile, January will bring the first meeting of the study committee considering the Asheville water system’s sensitive history — and its future.
Rep. Tim Moffitt, the Buncombe County Republican who chairs the Legislative Research Commission’s Metropolitan Sewage/Water System Committee, says it plans to hear from the public at its second meeting, in February.
Although the research staff has been assigned, "It's going to take them awhile … to really get a handle on the issues that have been in dispute," Moffitt said Nov. 2. He expects an informational website to launch soon. "Everything we come up with will go on that," he noted, adding, "I want to be transparent through this entire process.” The site, he said, will also take public comment.
Earlier this year, Moffitt sponsored HB 925 which, in its original form, required Asheville to transfer its water system to the Metropolitan Sewerage District — an inflammatory move in a city and county with a contentious water history. But the final version of Moffitt's bill instead established the study committee, charged with exploring the idea of consolidating water and sewer services in "large cities located entirely within a metropolitan sewerage district," such as Asheville. The committee will also consider requiring the city to convey its water system to the larger district, as well as related issues affecting communities in other parts of the state, said Moffitt, noting that he has no predetermined objective but simply wants "what's best for ratepayers." And for Asheville, that means "The water system could remain in the city; it could become independent like MSD or become part of MSD.”
Asked if a potential state-mandated transfer of a city-owned water system to an independent authority might be a step toward for-profit management of water resources, Moffitt answered: "Oh, no; privatization has never been even a consideration on my part. You're talking about a very important part of everyone's life.
"My goal is to really, once and for all, bring to the surface the true story about our [Asheville area] water system and make the best decision that's in the best interest of the ratepayers," Moffitt concluded.
The committee’s other members are: Chuck McGrady (Henderson County), Bill Brawley (Mecklenburg County) and Tom Murry (Wake County), all Republicans, plus Democrat William Brisson (Bladen/Cumberland counties).
To learn more about the history of Asheville’s water system, see "Water Torture" by Jonathan Barnard (March 23, 2005 Xpress).
— Nelda Holder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.