State Rep. Tim Moffitt offered further insights into legislation he filed May 4 that would transfer control over Asheville’s water system to the Metropolitan Sewerage District.
In a May 6 interview with Xpress, Buncombe Republican Moffitt called the bill a “starting point” for what he hopes will be a productive process of determining the best way to manage the water system.
“It’s designed to drive the discussion,” he said. “The issue of water has been a contentious issue in our area since the Great Depression. And it seems to be an issue that the city of Asheville uses to determine what their forced annexation policy is going to be.”
He decided to introduce the bill after the City Council recently voted to raise water rates on commercial custumers.
“I’ve had the bill drafted, but I really wasn’t going to run the bill,” he explained. “But when the city decided to raise the rates on its commercial costumers … in this economy, that concerned me. Because I really felt that was inappropriate timing.”
Members of City Council have expressed strong opposition to the proposal. Vice Mayor Brownie Newman and others have also expressed dismay that they were not consulted with or informed of the legislation before it was introduced. Newman said that Moffitt didn’t mention the bill when he, Council member Esther Manheimer and City Manager Gary Jackson met with the legislator for 30 minutes during a trip to Raleigh on May 2. However, Moffitt counters that he knew Mayor Terry Bellamy was coming to Raleigh May 4 and he thought it would be more appropriate to discuss it with her first.
“I had no idea they were going to be in Raleigh on Monday,” he asserts. They were not on the calendar. … Their insinuation that this was a formal meeting I think is inappropriate because that was not the case.”
As for his meeting with Bellamy, Moffitt maintained that “We had a nice discussion about it. … We disagree on this issue. And I reassured her that this was not something I was going to jam through.”
Moffitt said he doesn’t anticipate that the House will take up the legislation this year. And he said he expected the bill to evolve as city and MSD officials offer their advice on the best way forward.
“It’s going to be a lengthy process. All the stakeholders will be invited to the table,” he explained. “And I think most folks will be very appreciative at how thorough this process will be to derive an outcome that will have the most positive outcome for the people.”
He also noted that he thinks the municipality would need to be compensated on its investment in the system. However, as written, the bill provides no provision requiring such compensation.
“It’s not the final product,” he emphasized. “When you’re drafting something like this, there’s too many vagaries there, there’s too much work that has to be done for it to be appropriate to have the right outcome. It’s a starting place.”