MSD postpones decision on proposed cost-sharing plan

In a 6-5 vote on Wednesday, Dec. 15, the Metropolitan Sewerage District board tabled plans to implement a new cost-sharing policy for sewer-line extensions in new developments and annexed areas until next month. Despite getting the go-ahead from the MSD planning committee on Dec. 2 (in what was also a close vote), the board heeded a request from the Council of Independent Business Owners that the issue be tabled for a month.

The delay raised the ire of some board members, who promised to skip January’s meeting in protest.

First, the proposal: If implemented, the so-called “hybrid” plan would create a two-tiered system with differing rules for new public agency and private developments or annexed areas not currently served by MSD (See the Dec. 13 online post “MSD Considers Sharing Cost of Sewer-Line Extensions”).

The proposal calls for MSD to contribute 50 percent of revenue from newly annexed areas and new public-agency developments — for a period of up to 10 years or until the full cost of the line extension is met. For private developments, MSD would contribute 100 percent of revenues for five years.

Under the current system, MSD makes payments based on estimated rather than actual revenues.

But the idea was tabled after Mike Plemmons, director of the Council of Independent Business Owners, asked the board to delay their vote so CIBO would have time to craft a presentation on the potential effect of the new cost-sharing plan on small-to-medium developers.

“We think [those developers] are the two groups that could probably utilize that policy more so than the large developers,” said Plemmons. “I just want to remind everyone that CIBO is the group that put this thing together,” he added. “We want to be a part of the process no matter how it goes.”

Board member and Asheville City Council member Bill Russell agreed with Plemmons and made a motion to table the proposal. Russell also raised concerns that the full board wasn’t in attendance, specifically citing Mayor Terry Bellamy’s absence from the meeting.

Board Member Max Haner disagreed with the delay, arguing that issues regarding small developers could be handled after the motion was passed. Haner said, “I would be supportive of setting up a process, an ad hoc committee or whatever, to get to where we need to go and not delay this.”

Asheville City Council member Esther Manheimer addressed the board, noting the city’s desire to move the process along and willingness to work with MSD to make the final cost-sharing plan more palatable. “The city would certainly invite another month to talk with you all and work on this, assuming we would have an opportunity to make some changes to this so that it would be supported by a majority,” said Manheimer.

MSD Board Chair Steve Aceto then called for the vote, but Haner and Bill Stanley said they would intentionally miss the next meeting in protest. If they do so, the final decision on the new policy shifts to February: Aceto made it clear that the proposal would not be considered unless all members were present. To do otherwise would imply that “some board members are more equal than others.” Aceto added that all comments on potential changes to the proposal should be submitted before the board’s next meeting on Jan. 19.

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