Heads up: Legislative hearings involving Asheville water system begin

Hearings of the Legislature’s Metropolitan Sewerage/Water System Committee, headed by Buncombe County’s Rep. Tim Moffitt, are set to begin Jan. 23 in Raleigh. The study grew out of legislation filed by Moffitt that would have demanded “conveyance of a city water system to a metropolitan sewerage district” under certain conditions — conditions that happened to specifically match Asheville and Buncombe County (see HB 925 as first filed).

The proposed legislation, which caught both the city and the existing MSD by surprise (see Xpress’ May 5 report), was changed in committee to take the shape of a study bill, and the House standing committee was authorized in the Studies Act of 2011 (HB 773), adopted June 16.

The Studies Act authorizes the committee to look at whether “requiring large cities that have a municipal water system and that are located entirely within a Metropolitan Sewerage District to convey that water system to the district will improve the efficiency of providing public services. The Commission may specifically examine House Bill 925, First Edition, 2011.”

Moffitt is joined on the committee by fellow Republicans Chuck McGrady of Henderson County, William Brawley of Mecklenburg County and Tom Murry of Wake County. William Brisson of Bladen County is the only Democrat.

In October, Asheville City Council appointed members Esther Manheimer and Jan Davis to a task force created in conjunction with the MSD, established to provide input during the study process. Moffitt’s committee, which is limited to four meetings, must complete its work by the end of next April.

To receive notices of the study committee’s meetings, members of the public may register here. To review information and materials, see the committee’s website. The Jan. 23 meeting will be held at 2 p.m. in the Legislative Office Building, Room 544.

by Nelda Holder, contributing editor

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14 thoughts on “Heads up: Legislative hearings involving Asheville water system begin

  1. Barry Summers

    For information on Chairman Tim Moffitt’s other committee, where he and a majority of the ‘study committee’ are in fact studying privatization, go here:

    http://tinyurl.com/6m5joxs

    To see the information presented so far in this committee, including the various ways NC municipalities can privatize their water systems, go here:

    http://tinyurl.com/86akq9p

    Is it a coincidence that these two committees are proceeding concurrently, under the same leadership & several of the same members?

    The first step for those who want to privatize Asheville’s water will be prying it out of the hands of the entity which is most invested in protecting it: the City of Asheville. It almost doesn’t matter if it winds up under the control of the MSD or a regional authority. They will not have the resources, incentive, or political will to fight off the private companies that are salivating over the last healthy aquifer in the drought-stricken Southeast US.

  2. sharpleycladd

    Somebody should let New Belgium and Sierra Nevada know about this. Breweries use a lot of water, and some corporate grab will doubtless make this item a lot more expensive. In fact, can you envision any “conveyance” scenario that results in lower water rates?

  3. Elaine Lite

    A power grab of the first order … and we need to stop them in their tracks! Asheville’s water is one of our most treasured resources … and it’s a foregone conclusion that the next step after a “regional water authority” will be privatization. After that – it’s just a short hop-skip to fracking. Help raise awareness of this issue – tell a friend.

  4. mcates

    Below are 5 recent headlines from the City of Asheville website…

    Water restored to the Fairview area
    Fairview water customers asked to conserve water
    UPDATED: Water outage slated for areas along Hazel Mill Road, Patton Avenue
    UPDATE: Water advisory lifted for Bee Tree Lake Road area
    Water outage scheduled for N. Fork, Black Mountain

    The fact is we currently have a problem getting water to our schools and homes. When my son comes home from school and says he can’t drink the water that’s a problem. When this happens multiple times, I feel like we live in a city with a 3rd world water system.

    If as much ire was directed at the council who has been in charge all of these years as is being directed at Moffitt, we might not even be having this discussion right now.

    Unfortunately, the Asheville City Council has had it’s priorities out of wack in the past and has allowed itself to be distracted. We need to encourage the new council to focus less on Occupy Asheville, raising recycling rates, LED street lights and other issues and more on core services like water.

    If council can demonstrate to Raleigh that solving our water woes is one of the city’s highest priorities we may be able to head off Raleigh’s intervention.

    • Barry Summers

      I feel like we live in a city with a 3rd world water system.

      And privatizing the system will change that? The studies show that water quality, rates, and infrastructure either don’t improve or actually decline after privatization. This is why cities like Atlanta have had to fight like hell to kick out the the private companies that they were paying through the nose for.

      “Even after slashing the workforce to dangerously low levels, failing to fulfill
      maintenance and repair duties called for in the contract and successfully billing the city for
      millions more than the annual contract fee, the much-vaunted savings from privatization didn

    • Barry Summers

      Spoke like someone who ran for Council partly on the premise that we should start to privatize our water system, and lost. And oh yeah, gave money to Tim Moffitt’s campaign…

      If as much ire was directed at the council who has been in charge all of these years as is being directed at Moffitt, we might not even be having this discussion right now.

      I know, Mr. Cates – you’re all about the non-partisanship (“please forget about that “enemy” comment that I directed at Asheville…”), and the ‘working with’ the current leadership in Raleigh…

      “…we need to put partisanship aside (both sides are guilty) and start creating a productive

  5. mcates

    Barry,

    We do agree there is a lot of hostility and contempt, we just disagree on the source of it. You can continue to quote me out of context, but I think the way you consistently attack me makes my point.

    As does the way you ignore what I wrote:

    [If council can demonstrate to Raleigh that solving our water woes is one of the city’s highest priorities we may be able to head off Raleigh’s intervention.]

    Somehow you turned that into:

    [Spoke like someone who ran for Council partly on the premise that we should start to privatize our water system, and lost.]

    Obviously, anyone who wants to understand my position can read my comment or go to my campaign website http://www.markcates.com and read the economic plan (Section 2. c.). It will be clear that your statement about privatizing the water system is 100% false.

    In the economic plan I developed, Asheville uses growth in conjunction with a Regional Enterprise Zone and dedicated tax dollars (unlike AB Tech) to pay to update our water infrastructure.

    Asheville has many public/private partnerships, First Light Solar and Enka High School and Biltmore 51 project come to mind.

    • Barry Summers

      I’m glad to hear you’ll join us in opposing any attempt to wrest Asheville’s water system from it’s control.

    • mcates

      Barry, I would love to see Asheville keep its water system and stated that publicly on multiple occasions. However, Asheville has no plan for paying for the necessary upgrades.

      It’s more relevant to me that my son can drink the water at his school and his home, than who controls the water system.

      Hence, my motivation to come up with a mechanism that we could take to the state and show how we are going to pay for the upgrades.

      Current leaders in the city, have not shown the state such a plan.

  6. Bjorn

    Getting water from large, private corporations owned by investors seeking to profit off the sale of an essential resource. Hell yeah, that’s a great idea!

  7. Barry Summers

    Yeah, it’s all wine & roses. Here’s a recent news story out of Austin Texas about how severely screwed they are getting by the big private water companies:

    http://tinyurl.com/7lgp35r

    “PFLUGERVILLE

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