Legislative committees focus on Asheville, Buncombe County

With constitutional arguments concerning the Jan. 4 and 5 convenings of the N.C. Legislature now in the court system and the next scheduled session a month away on Feb. 16, the legislative calendar is currently dense with committee activity. And three committees specifically affecting Asheville and Buncombe County are part of the out-of-session action.

The House Select Committee to Investigate the Handling of the CTS Contamination Site meets at 1:30 p.m. next Tuesday, Jan. 17,  in room 544 of the Legislative Office Building in Raleigh, and the Metropolitan Sewage/Water System Committee meets at 2 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 23, also in room 544 of the LOB.

Both committees are chaired by Rep. Tim Moffitt of Buncombe County, who sat down recently to discuss the water system committee process with Xpress. Moffitt, a first-term Republican, sponsored the bill (HB 925) that established that committee, which is delving into the history and structure of the Asheville municipal water system with the intention of making recommendations about its future.

“My interest is simply to continue to deliver the water in the same quality that it is, but to take the fractured relationships that have developed around the whole water issue and mend those so we can really move forward in more meaningful ways from an economic development standpoint, and really look more regionally at the things we need to do,” Moffitt said of his motivation for establishing the study.

But Moffitt created a local furor when he filed his original placeholder bill, which proposed — in generic terms concerning cities with populations over 75,000 in counties with a population of over 200,000 — conveying municipal water systems to an existing Metropolitan Sewerage District. The criteria were a match for Asheville and Buncombe County, meaning the municipal water system might be handed over to the Metropolitan Sewerage District of Buncombe County at the direction of the state Legislature.

“That was probably an awkward moment for a new legislator,” Moffitt explained. “This particular bill was drafted early on just because I wanted to get something out there.” The bill soon changed shape, resulting in a study committee functioning under the Legislative Research Commission. The Jan. 23 meeting is the first of four meetings before the end of April, when a committee report will be due.

“At the very end we may report out that this is such a vast issue that we recommend a continuance in a secondary LRC format. … We could report out, given the preponderance of the history thus far, that things remain status quo. Or we could revisit the city’s and county’s previous attempt of establishing an independent regional authority,” Moffitt said at the end of the afternoon interview, held at the local office of his business, Moffitt International. That summation concluded his extensive comments concerning his reasons for presenting the original legislation, and discussing the process that the study committee will follow — which includes a day-long public hearing in Asheville in February (date to be announced) followed by two additional meetings before its April conclusion. For the full interview transcript, click here.

Another Statehouse group at work on an Asheville issue — the Select Committee on Certificate of Need Process and Related Hospital Issues — has no official meetings coming up, but may soon make recommendations that affect Mission Health.

Nelda Holder, contributing editor


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