Flooded with interest: Water-system forum attracts more than 200 *UPDATED with video*

A sacred topic attracted more than 200 people to cram into the pews of Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church on Monday night: the Asheville water system.

Hosted by the Asheville League of Women Voters (and co-sponsored by Mountain Xpress and Urban News), the Feb. 13 forum served as an informational session to the public about the water system, its history and its possible future. The forum included a panel of five people:

Vice Mayor Esther Manheimer
Manheimer serves as one of two Asheville City Council liaisons (Council member Jan Davis serves as the other) to the legislative study committee known as the Metropolitan Sewerage/Water System committee. Chaired by Buncombe County Rep. Tim Moffitt, the committee will make a recommendation concerning who should control the city’s water system.

Rep. Chuck McGrady
McGrady, of Henderson County, represents District 117 in the North Carolina House of Representatives, and serves as a member of the study committee. He used to be a Henderson County commissioner and was a member of the Regional Water Authority board (which was dissolved in 2005).

Dr. Gene Rainey
Rainey, a former chair of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, served when the Regional Water Authority was established in 1994.

Steve Aceto
Aceto is the board chair of the Metropolitan Sewerage District of Buncombe County.

Ted Volskay
Volskay works as an environmental consultant for SynTerra in Greenville, S.C. He is also a member of the League of Women Voters in his home county.

Video of the forum produced by Davyne Dial and John Blackwell for the Asheville-Buncombe County League of Women Voters:

Watch live streaming video from ablwv at livestream.com

The forum began a little after 7 p.m. with brief introductions and short speeches from all of the panelists. Topics ranged from the history of the water system, to the legislative process, to findings about privatization, to assurances that privatization was not being discussed at the legislative level. The forum also included a question-and-answer portion. These are the highlights:

•More than 200 people showed up to the event, some of them prominent members of the community — N.C. Sen. Martin Nesbitt, Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy, Asheville City Council members Jan Davis, Marc Hunt, Chris Pelly, Buncombe County Commissioner Chairman David Gantt, County Commissioner Holly Jones, County Commissioner candidate Brownie Newman, Register of Deeds Drew Reisinger, former city water-department director Mike Holcombe and N.C. Rep. Susan Fisher‘s husband (since Fisher could not attend).

•Moffitt was unable to attend the meeting. Instead he sent his regards, which were then read aloud at the forum by Holder.

• McGrady tried to dispel rumors that the Asheville water system will be privatized and said, “I can assure everyone here that I have had no conversations with any of my colleagues about privatization.” He also spoke about the Henderson County perspective of the water system from his time spent on the Regional Water Authority, saying that there were hard feelings between Henderson County and the City of Asheville because “From a Henderson County perspective, the agreement was not honored.”

•Manheimer encouraged citizens to remain vigilant and educated about the water system. She urged the audience to not only have an opinion about what should be done with the water system, but to then make that opinion .known to government officials.

• Rainey gave a brief history of the water system. He also encouraged the idea of a regional authority, adding, “I would hope decisions made by a regional authority would be made on business calculations, not on policitcal concerns.”

• Concerns about local representation appeared twice during the Q&A portion of the evening. Valerie Hoh asked why — other than Moffitt — there were no Buncombe or Asheville representatives on his’s committee to decide future of the Asheville water system. Another woman came to the mic and asked if it was too late for Moffitt to appoint Reps. Patsy Keever and Susan Fisher to the study committee. After hearing this suggestion, the audience cheered. However, McGrady responded saying it was unlikely for this to happen. He also noted that there are four Republicans and one Democrat on the committee; two of those members were chosen because their districts have large, integrated water-and-sewer systems, such as Mecklenberg County.

•During the Q&A portion, Mayor Terry Bellamy made an appearance at the mic. However, she did not have a question. Bellamy used her two minutes to tell members of the community and the panel, “One theme that I heard tonight was that, in the past, the leadership of addressing issues came from the local government coming together, not from the state telling [them] what to do.” Bellamy made it no secret when she said she felt this was a local issue that should not be handled from Raleigh. Before she walked away, she said, “I’m in support of the City of Asheville keeping its water system.” At this, the crowd of people cheered and applauded.

• Sen. Nesbitt was the last person at the mic and told the panel and the community, “We have to be careful with how we play with our neighbors.” Nesbitt explained the reason he felt that Asheville had the Sullivan Acts placed on the region was because it was an attempt — on his part, as a senator who represents both Asheville and Buncombe residents — to “bring some peace to the valley and not fight over the water anymore.” Nesbitt also joked that he never thought he’d agree with former Asheville City Council member Carl Mumpower, who wrote in an editorial in the Citizen-Times that the state committee saying it was going to study the issue first was like thieves casing a bank before they rob it.

There are at least two more meetings about the water system in the Asheville area: Next Monday, Feb. 20, a community meeting — “Losing Control of Our Water” — will be held at Jubilee! (46 Wall st., downtown Asheville) from 6:30 to 9 p.m. This forum is sponsored by the Mountain Voices Alliance, Clean Water for NC, other nonprofits, some City Council members and several Buncombe County commissioners.

And on Thursday, Feb. 23, Moffitt’s Metropolitan Sewerage/Water System Committee will convene for an all-day public hearing at the Thursday, Feb. 23, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more background on the issue, including a short history of the system, see the Mountain Xpress article “Water Torture” (March 23, 2005).

For Rep. Moffitt’s statement as read at the forum, click here.

Below, we have aggregated the live Twitter dispatches by News Editor Margaret Williams and reporter Jake Frankel and Caitlin Byrd.

5:33 P.M. JakeFrankel RT @mxnews:  Follow at 6:30 for live dispatches from the League of Women Voters forum on water system http://t.co/iNxyYJ3H

5:34 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd RT @mxnews:  Follow at 6:30 for live dispatches from the League of Women Voters forum on water system http://t.co/voDNecpW

6:27 P.M. mxnews Parking lot at Grace Presbyterian already packed for forum on water system

6:49 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd It’s filling up here at the forum. http://t.co/dYHPC2mF

6:54 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Pretty full house here at the forum. About 5 minutes until we start

6:57 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Don’t forget to check out our post, live-stream and twitter aggregation http://t.co/OtZiglb1

6:58 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd 2 minutes until we start.

7:01 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Packed house. Still a few seats open though.

7:01 P.M. mvwilliams Maps of water system on display for forum http://t.co/hGhUdjuy

7:03 P.M. mvwilliams Full house at league of women voters forum on water system http://t.co/LnOcqhWn

7:03 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Getting our welcome now. Reminder: League is nonpartisan, sometimes takes positions on issues though

7:04 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Next week when committee comes to town on Feb. 23, is when people can come and give their opinons. This session is about facts

7:04 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd This is an informational session provided by the leauge. We are here to hear from panelists, you all

7:04 P.M. JakeFrankel Vid streaming NOW RT @MaryCaitlinByrd: Don’t forget to check out our post, live-stream and twitter aggregation http://t.co/52O4Urb0

7:05 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Your opions belong at the meeting on the 23rd. But feel free to ask questions.

7:06 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Here we go http://t.co/cMe9qVL4

7:07 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Pelly, Bellamy, Gnatt in attendence

7:07 P.M. JakeFrankel Nelda Holder: Goal here is to get accurate info out there. It’s not time for opinions. You’ll get that chance at the Feb. 23 hearing

7:09 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd On panel tonight: Steve Aceto, Rep. Chuck McGrady, Vice Mayor Esther Manheimer, Dr. Gene Rainey, Ted Volskay

7:10 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Volskay drove up from Greenville, SC for tonight’s forum. He is a consultant with Centero (sp?) corp.

7:12 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd First person to speak is Rep. McGrady. Serves on MSD committee, a 5-member committee.

7:13 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd McGrady: Hendersonville does not really want to be part of any water/sewer agreement of any sort.

7:14 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd McGrady: Henderson County…There have been discussions of merging Henderson Co. with MSD, in regard to sewer side

7:15 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd McGrady: From Henderson County perspective, the agreement was not honored.

7:15 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd McGrady: on water side, there was an agreement signed and some portion of city’s water located at plant out near Mills River

7:16 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd McGrady: There are very hard feelings between Henderson County and City of Asheville and no real desire to be part of a system.

7:18 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd McGrady: To my knowledge, no one is interested in privatization

7:18 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd McGrady: I can state for everyone here that I have had no conversations with any of my collegues about privatization.

7:19 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Nelda Holder now reading statement sent from Rep. Moffitt about water system, he was unable to attend tonight’s meeting

7:19 P.M. mvwilliams No one is interested in privatization of water system, says Rep Chuck McGrady

7:20 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Correction: unable to attend tonight’s forum

7:21 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Statement from Moffitt says he “would never agree to privatize this public access”

7:22 P.M. mvwilliams About 200 here at LWV water system forum

7:22 P.M. SmithMillCreek RT @ABLWV:  Well over 150 people at the Asheville Water Forum.  [This is an info-only meeting. Input & opinions on Feb. 23rd ]

7:23 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Vice Mayor Esther Manheimer about to speak

7:25 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Manheimer: Basically we’re running a water system not for any financial benefit to the city.

7:25 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Manheimer says she wants to focus on how good water system is today

7:26 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Manheimer: It’s not like it’s some cash cow for the city of Asheville.

7:28 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Manheimer says it’s important to have an opinion about this issue, then you need to make opinion known

7:28 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Manheimer: Tomorrow night the Council will be considering resolution to have the Council to take official stance on issue

7:29 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Dr. Gene Rainey to go over history now

7:30 P.M. JakeFrankel Meinhemer: Tell your legislators how you feel about this issue.

7:32 P.M. JakeFrankel Meinheimer also notes city is considering hiring a lobbyist to advocate for AVL in the #ncga

7:32 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Rainey: There are 4 questions raised by leg. proposal

7:33 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Rainey: I would hope decisions made by a regional authority would be made on business calculations not policitcal concerns.

7:34 P.M. JakeFrankel Rainey: If system is handed over to indy authority, AVL needs to be rewarded for the all good work it’s done as steward.

7:34 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Rainey: I would hope Henderson County would be able to forgive the City of Asheville for its sins and come back

7:35 P.M. JakeFrankel Rainey is advocating for any indy authority to be regionally minded, incl Madison, surrounding counties

7:35 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Rainey: The Appalachin Chain is one of three coolest regions in US.

7:36 P.M. mvwilliams Former Bun Co chair Gene Rainey was key in helping create regional water authority years ago; now hopes (again) for truly regional

7:36 P.M. JakeFrankel Rainey: Water is liquid gold.

7:37 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Rainey: I appeal to AVL leaders to help us transfer to regional water system and fund its future budgets.

7:38 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Next hearing from Steve Aceto, board chair of MSD

7:38 P.M. JakeFrankel Rainey: I know Rep. Moffitt’s efforts haven’t been popular, but we thank him for bringing up an issue that needs to be dealt with.

7:39 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Aceto: The MSD is indp. agency, not part of the city or the county. It’s a creature of statute. It’s a regional public utility.

7:42 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Aceto: The MSD board has not generated opinion on whether water system should be removed from CIty of Asheville

7:43 P.M. JakeFrankel In the house! RT @ABLWV: Show of tweets: RT if you’re here at the @ABLWV informational forum! #avlgov

7:45 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Aceto: Sullivan Act wasn’t really about water, it was about finances

7:49 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Aceto: MSD got started as legislative creature to get sewage out of French Broad River

7:50 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Aceto says MSD is award-winning system, the French Broad is now up to recreational classification.

7:50 P.M. SmithMillCreek I’m not there. Listening at http://t.co/I7jwD7Nz   || Show of tweets: RT if you’re here at the @ABLWV

7:51 P.M. JakeFrankel Aceto notes French Broad R. quality has gotten much better over the years: We went from dead to suitable for rec. use.

7:51 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Aceto: Also large opportunity now to have community discussion about what’s good for the future.

7:51 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Aceto: As board chair of MSD, you (asheville) have a marvelous tradition of collaboration in problem-solving in infastructure issues

7:52 P.M. mvwilliams MSD board men Steve Aceto reviews financial ruin in 1930s that set stage for water revenue paying off debt, system neglected

7:53 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Ted Volksay here, he’s environmental consultant. Drove up from Greenville, SC

7:54 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Volksay co-authored national study on privatization, says concept of privatization’s really taken off since Reagan era.

7:54 P.M. JakeFrankel Aceto credits better sewage treatment, new pipes, MSD stewardship, among reasons for improved French Broad quality

7:55 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Volksay: The study was not done to become an advocate, but to educate electorate about privatization, both pros and cons.

7:56 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Volskay: While conducting research on this topic, saw more privatization failures than privatization successes.

7:57 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Volskay: privatization typtically works best when services to be privatized are limited in scope and complexity.

7:57 P.M. JakeFrankel Consultant Volskay: I’ve seen far more failures w/ attempts at water system privatization than successes.

7:58 P.M. mvwilliams Sullivan Act was collaborative effort (city, county) to use water revenue to pay back 1930 debts, say Aceto

7:59 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Volskay: Many states, county, municapl governments are not prepared to privatize.

8:00 P.M. mvwilliams When banks failed, #avl didn’t have $5mil in bank as thought; it has $18,000 to run city, pay police, teachers..,

8:02 P.M. mvwilliams With Sullivan Act in place, only 30% of water revenue went to system, maintenance. Rest of $ went to debt payment

8:02 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Question portion of the forum is about to begin

8:02 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Nelda Holder thanking sponsors of this forum (PS that would be the Mountain Xpress and Urban News)

8:02 P.M. JakeFrankel Meinheimer notes that “new candidate” Jane Whilden is here (she announced today she’s running against Moffitt http://t.co/tYlWkg81

8:03 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Before questions, Holder is allowing a few people with expertise to make a statement/comment

8:03 P.M. JakeFrankel ABLWV’s Nelda Holder stops Meinheimer from politicking any further, tells her “that’s for another meeting”

8:04 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Jan Davis up to make statement

8:04 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Will have statements from Jan Davis, Russ Martin, Mike Holcombe .

8:05 P.M. mvwilliams Former water systems manager Mike Holcombe here. Now on mSD board?

8:06 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Davis: When we disolved agreement (in 2005), we set to work to fix the system

8:07 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Davis: We’ve been good stewards. I think we really should, as a community, focus on running a really good system.

8:08 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Martin: When I read about this in the newspaper, I felt compelled to talk and give opinion, because a lot of this is opinion

8:08 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Former Mayor Russ Martin to make statement.

8:08 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Davis: Most municipalities own their water systems (like woodfin). And that’s what we’re asking to do

8:11 P.M. mvwilliams Former mayor Russ Martin pegs #avl water system value at $1 billion plus.

8:12 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Mike Holcombe up speaking now

8:12 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Martin: …the right to govern themselves, their assets, and their constituients.

8:12 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Martin: …for that asset or need to permit…the City to makes those decisions that affect…

8:12 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Martin: Regardless of whether the state has a self-imposed right to take property they should either have to give fair value…

8:13 P.M. mvwilliams This is a pro-Asheville crowd at LWV water system forum. Applause when former mayor Russ Martin speaks about future of system

8:14 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Holcombe: I firmly believe the water system would finally be depolitized to some degree

8:14 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Holcombe: I’m here to say that I’m in favor of combined water and sewer system, substantially similar to what’s in Charlotte

8:15 P.M. mvwilliams Former water system director M Holcombe says he favors a combined utility. MSD + water system. Says this would depoliticize it

8:15 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Holcombe: Water is precious resource

8:18 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Now we’ve got questions.

8:18 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Holcombe recommends the legislation include moratorium on any consideration of privatization for 10-20 years to quell fears.

8:19 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Robin Cape of Woodfin Water Board up at mic for question, asks to be involved in conversation

8:20 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Cape would like to know hwo big is scope, how many people included in process

8:20 P.M. mvwilliams Former water systems manager & now MSD board mem M Holcombe suggests MSD pay #avl 5% in perpetuity for system

8:21 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd McGrady: Says he expects Hendersonville will not be engaged in water issues related to city of asheville

8:21 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd McGrady says he cannot answer question, will ask Moffitt.

8:21 P.M. JakeFrankel Robin Cape wants to know the scope of how big a “regional” water authority might be.

8:22 P.M. JakeFrankel McGrady says to Cape “I don’t know.” Says “everything is on the table” other than privatization

8:22 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Cape: I support Asheville having its own water system.

8:23 P.M. JakeFrankel Barry Summers: I don’t believe the assurances from Moffitt and others that privatization is off the table.

8:24 P.M. JakeFrankel Summers: Can anyone assure that a regional authority wouldn’t then contract out w/ private management company?

8:24 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Barry Summers wants to know that privatization will not happen in the future

8:25 P.M. mvwilliams If water system transferred to regional authority, can committee guarantee would not later be privatized, Barry Summer asks?

8:25 P.M. JakeFrankel Summers: Privatization doesn’t just mean transfer of ownership. It could involve contracting out management of system.

8:25 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd McGrady: We’re early in the process, Barry. There has been no discussion of any privatization of any sort at this time.

8:26 P.M. JakeFrankel McGrady again emphasizes that privatization has not been discussed, says bonds would make it illegal to privatize system.

8:27 P.M. mvwilliams Rep McGrady says doesnt think it would be legal; Summers presses; McGrady sighs. Says not being discussed.

8:28 P.M. JakeFrankel Consultant Volskay: Summers is right, most privatization doesn’t involve transfer of assets, could just be mgmt of services.

8:28 P.M. mvwilliams Volkay: privatization of running system can happen without transfer of system ownership

8:30 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Man asks, “Has it legally been determined who owns the water system?”

8:31 P.M. JakeFrankel Meinheimer: Attorney Bob Long says rate payers own the system. He argues AVL gov shouldn’t be compensated, because city doesn’t own.

8:31 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Manheimer: When at study commitee, Attorney Bob Long presented history and his presentation was about of who owns the water system.

8:32 P.M. JakeFrankel Meinheimer: We (city gov) doesn’t agree with Long. We feel AVL should be compensated if control of system is transfered.

8:32 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Ms. Myers asks how many water lines need to be replaced in city water system and what is role of issue of annexation.

8:32 P.M. mvwilliams Good line of people to ask question at forum   http://t.co/LqV3g6Sb

8:34 P.M. mvwilliams Former mayor Russ Martin argues city owns system; if he pays Progress Energy monthly bill for electricity, he doesn’t own system…

8:34 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Manheimer: annexation question is very unique to Asheville.

8:36 P.M. mvwilliams If paying electric bill means he has share in owning Progress Energy, Martin says he’d like to get his dividend check

8:37 P.M. mvwilliams McGrady says city system losing 30% of water in lines, is that efficient?

8:37 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd McGrady says City of Asheville’s water system loses over 30% of its water.

8:39 P.M. mvwilliams Water director Shope says 30 to 35 % water “lost,” some due to bad meters and high pressure (a problem with mountain systems?)

8:39 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Average pressure here is 150-250 psi in pipes, and that does create leaks. Even new pipes develop leaks b/c of pressure.

8:39 P.M. JakeFrankel Mountainous terrain creates really high pressures, which helps cause leaks. Even new pipes leak because of high pressures.

8:40 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Line of questions growing, Mayor Bellamy standing in line, too.

8:41 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Woman wants to know why there aren’t more people on study committee that represent Asheville and Buncombe.

8:41 P.M. JakeFrankel Water director Shope: leak % is actually good considering conditions, says system uses best engineering practices to address them

8:42 P.M. JakeFrankel Resident asks why Moffitt and all other committee members other than McGrady aren’t here (crowd cheers)

8:43 P.M. JakeFrankel McGrady: I can’t totally answer that question. I encourage you to contact Moffitt and let him know how you feel.

8:43 P.M. mvwilliams Valerie (last name?) asks why no Buncombe or Asheville rep on Moffitt’s committee to decide future of #avl water system?

8:44 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Resident who moved here from NY says he needs 2 questions answered to formulate a formed and facted-based opinion

8:44 P.M. mvwilliams McGrady not sure, only 5 on committee, four are Republican. 1 Democrat. 2 from large systems down east

8:45 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd Second: What is the proposed fair compensation to Asheville

8:45 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd The first being: I need to understand more clearly the benefits of merging with MSD or independent entity.

8:46 P.M. MaryCaitlinByrd McGrady: Says committee will have to answer those sorts of questions, but does not know answers yet

8:47 P.M. mvwilliams McGrady: it is possible that committee will take no action on water system

8:49 P.M. JakeFrankel Resident: Is this the first step in an effort to abolish the AVL government?

8:51 P.M. JakeFrankel McGrady: “I don’t think so.” But reminds crowd that in N.C. the #ncga has ultimate authority and the power to abolish city govs

8:52 P.M. mvwilliams #avl Terry Bellamy waiting to speak at water system forum

8:54 P.M. mxnews Hume, resident of City of Avl wants to know from McGrady how will committee judge/measure discovery process that has taken place

8:54 P.M. JakeFrankel NC isn’t a home rule state, which means #ncga has power to dictate rules of how local municipalities operate http://t.co/WzD5qFu5

8:55 P.M. mxnews McGrady: My hope is to do it in a transparent matter, find additional facts, find where they lead us and if there need to be changes

8:55 P.M. mvwilliams @marycaitlinbyrd’s laptop has died. She is now @mxnews

8:56 P.M. mxnews Bellamy wanting to make a few requests

8:56 P.M. mxnews Bellamy with papers in hand up at the mic

8:56 P.M. mvwilliams We never get to meet :) RT @McRaeHilliard: I can only stand for so long. Goodbye

8:56 P.M. mxnews Mayor Bellamy next in line to ask question

8:57 P.M. JakeFrankel Mayor Bellamy: The initial agreement came together by local govs coming together, not dictates from Raleigh (crowd cheers.

8:57 P.M. mxnews Bellamy: In the past, the leadership of addressing issues came from local gov coming together not state telling what to do

8:58 P.M. mvwilliams Mayor Bellamy points out that past collaborations were locally initiated, not brought by state.  This shld be local

8:59 P.M. mxnews McGrady: It is true that the best solutions usually come when the local government can come together

9:00 P.M. mxnews RT @mvwilliams: Comparing #avl system to Mecklenberg, other big systems is comparing apples to grapefruits (Bellamy)

9:00 P.M. mvwilliams Comparing #avl system to Mecklenberg, other big systems is comparing apples to grapefruits (Bellamy)

9:02 P.M. mxnews Bellamy says this issue does not involve anyone but the City of Asheville

9:04 P.M. mxnews Bellamy: I’m in support of the City of Asheville keeping its water system. Applause from crowd

9:05 P.M. mvwilliams Bellamy: if really want to review system regionally, include Hendersonville, Henderson county, etc, don’t make it all about #avl

9:06 P.M. mvwilliams Meeting going past 9 pm, 3 more speakers waiting, moderator Holder asks if continue. Most people stay.

9:08 P.M. mvwilliams To questions about not involving other municipalities, govs in study: Manheimer: as chair of committee, Moffitt gets to set agenda

9:08 P.M. JakeFrankel Resident asks if it’s too late for Moffitt to appoint the rest of local delegation (Dem Reps Keever and Fisher) to committee

9:08 P.M. mxnews Last person making their way to the mic for questions.

9:09 P.M. JakeFrankel McGrady says it’s not impossible, but unlikely they’ll be asked to join the committee

9:10 P.M. mxnews Resident wants to know why city of Asheville and its tax payers the only people in the state to be singled out w/ Sullivan Acts

9:10 P.M. mvwilliams Former mayor Leni Sitnick: trying not to be paranoid but if it quacks like a duck, I start to think it is a duck.

9:11 P.M. mxnews McGrady says City of Asheville does not have strong reputation in terms or reputation of working w/neighbors

9:11 P.M. JakeFrankel Former AVL Mayor Leni Sitnick asks why AVL is being signaled out by #ncga on this and other issues.

9:11 P.M. mxnews McGrady: I will the reason why is because of what Henderson County got out of deal originally.

9:12 P.M. JakeFrankel McGrady: History shows that when it comes to AVL water system, gov has been unreliable, hasn’t fulfilled obligations 2 Hendo

9:12 P.M. mvwilliams McGrady gets angry at Sitnick’s ‘political speech,’ says in past, city didn’t hold up deal with Henderson Co.

9:12 P.M. mxnews McGrady says, as of late, his experience has been the opposite

9:14 P.M. JakeFrankel However, McGrady says in recent years AVL gov has made great strides in cooperating and has gained more trust.

9:15 P.M. mvwilliams Sen Martin Nesbitt says McGrady taking a beating. Sitnick asked why city is saddled with Sullivan Acts

9:16 P.M. mvwilliams Sitnick says every time city asked for relief, got Sullivan’s 1… 2… And 3 …

9:17 P.M. mxnews Nesbitt: We wanted to help find peace in the valley and have people stop fighting over water

9:17 P.M. mxnews Sen. Martin Nesbitt: In this situation (Sullivan Acts), we reached conclusion that we need to quit fighting over water.

9:18 P.M. JakeFrankel Sen. Nesbitt: We shouldn’t be fighting over water. It’s too important for health, economy. McGrady has good intentions.

9:18 P.M. mxnews Nesbitt: To my friends in the City, we’ve got to be careful how we play with our neighbors

9:18 P.M. mvwilliams Nesbit says we fight about this every 10 years. State said stop fighting over water, don’t charge differential rates.

9:19 P.M. mxnews Nesbitt: If we’re ever going to have regional cooperation, it will be because of goodwill that people sit down and do it

9:20 P.M. JakeFrankel Nesbitt: This is like a “robber studying a bank to see how to rob it without getting caught.”

9:20 P.M. mxnews And that’s the end of the forum. 

9:20 P.M. JakeFrankel Nesbitt: To say this is about studying this issue is disengenous.

9:20 P.M. mvwilliams Nesbit jokes that he never thought he would agree with Dr Mumpower: “studying” this is like gang casing the bank before robbing it

9:21 P.M. JakeFrankel Nesbitt ends meeting with a bang and cheer RT @mxnews: And that’s the end of the forum. 


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One thought on “Flooded with interest: Water-system forum attracts more than 200 *UPDATED with video*

  1. Barry Summers

    …to assurance that privatization was not being discussed at the legislative level

    Not in the Study Committee, that is. Just because they aren’t doing it in front of Rep. Chuck McGrady, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Down the hall in Tim Moffitt’s other Committee, the House Select Committee on Public-Private Partnerships, privatizing municipal water is most definitely being discussed.

    http://www.ncleg.net/gascripts/Committees/Committees.asp?sAction=ViewCommittee&sActionDetails=House Select_136

    But the point is, it won’t actually be done by Tim Moffitt or either of his committees – they are establishing the conditions for privatization, and then the private companies come in and make their pitch to cash-strapped towns and cities (or regional authorities), to “partner” with them, like what is happening in Tryon NC right now.


    And the first thing that has to happen in Asheville, is to wrestle the system away from the elected officials who currently manage it, and put in the hands of an unelected body who will likely be more amenable to offers of privatization.

    As for Tim Moffitt’s grand pledge to pass a bill that ensures that the region’s water system stays in ‘public hands’, he is playing on people’s mis-perception of what “privatization” really means. He’s talking about making sure that a City or Regional Authority can’t sell or otherwise transfer ownership to a private company. That has very little to do with privatization. The preferred model for private companies these days is that the Govt. entity retains ownership, but contracts with the private company to operate, maintain, & manage the system. That’s why they call it a “Public-Private Partnership”. The private company escapes the debt load of purchasing the system, avoids the risk of owning a system that might require more maintenance than they want to commit to, and they get to avoid the public backlash against outright “control” of the system. It’s still technically in “public hands”, so don’t complain to AquaAmerica, complain to your Regional Water Authority, who negotiated the contract with AquaAmerica…

    The only way to avoid that scenario is for the City of Asheville to maintain control of the system.

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