Council to vote on water review committee Jan. 10

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Tens of thousands of Asheville and Buncombe County residents, left without water over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, want answers from city government. Asheville City Council will vote on one step toward providing them at its meeting of Tuesday, Jan. 10.

Council members will consider a resolution to establish an “independent review committee to analyze the events and circumstances leading up to, and throughout the duration of, the recent prolonged water outage.” The group would evaluate Asheville’s emergency response, identify infrastructure needs and recommend policy changes to make the city more resilient.

Nine members would be appointed, among them residential water customers, a commercial water customer and experts in public water systems. Council would make seven of those picks, with the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners choosing the other two.

Withing 30 days of its formation, the new committee would hire a consultant and update Council on its findings. During a Jan. 3 meeting of the county commissioners, Mayor Esther Manheimer said that initial work would focus on the recent outages. A final 90-day report would address longer-term changes to the water system and Asheville’s crisis communications.

No estimates for the cost of this process were provided in Council’s agenda documents as of press time.

In other news

Council will vote on adopting the city’s legislative agenda, which represents Asheville’s priorities at the N.C. General Assembly. First on the list is opposing laws that would limit short-term rental regulations; other items include funding for affordable housing, reparations work and water quality in the French Broad River.

The city and county experienced substantial turnover at the state legislature this election season. Three new Democratic representatives, Eric Ager, Lindsey Prather and Caleb Rudow, took over from retiring Democrats John Ager, Brian Turner and Susan Fisher, while redistricting means much of eastern Buncombe is now represented in the state Senate by Republican Warren Daniel. Chris Cooper, a political science professor at Western Carolina University, has said that shift in representation may make pursuing Asheville’s goals at the General Assembly “more challenging than it needs to be.”

Finally, Council members will consider approving a ban on plastic bags for brush and leaf collection. The measure would become effective in August and is part of a broader plastic reduction effort approved by Council in October.

Consent agenda and public comment

The consent agenda for the meeting contains eight items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion.

  • A $165,000 contract with Daikin Applied Americas Inc. for emergency repairs to the heating and cooling system at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center – Asheville. A staff report notes that the equipment, although upgraded in spring 2020, has consistently failed to keep the space cool during large shows. Attendees have required extra water and medical support to “combat challenges with overheating and exhaustion.”
  • A resolution reducing the size of the Human Relations Commission of Asheville from 15 members to 9. The commission currently has just 11 members and hasn’t been at full strength since February; all current members would stay on until their terms expire.
  • A budget amendment increasing the Swannanoa River Greenway Phase II design contract with Asheville-based Equinox Environmental by roughly $108,000, to a total of more than $758,000. The additional funds will allow Equinox to design the greenway’s path through the intersection of Swannanoa River Road and Bleachery Boulevard. Bidding on actual construction of the project is slated for this summer, with work expected to take 9-12 months.

Council members will gather in their chambers on the second floor of City Hall, 70 Court Plaza, starting at 5 p.m. The meeting will also be carried live on Charter/Spectrum Channel 193 and livestreamed through Asheville’s public engagement hub and on the city’s YouTube channel. Members of the public can also listen live by calling 855-925-2801, meeting code 5125.

At 2 p.m., Council will interview four candidates for the Asheville City Board of Education: Jesse Warren, William Young Jr., Miri Massachi and Pepi Acebo. Members will then appoint one of those candidates to fill the seat vacated by Peyton O’Conner during their regular meeting. The school board interviews will be livestreamed on the city’s public engagement hub and YouTube channel. Members of the public can also listen live by calling 855-925-2801, meeting code 2456. No public comment will be permitted.

Those who wish to speak during the regular meeting must attend in person and sign up at the door. No live remote comment will be permitted. Prerecorded voicemail messages can also be left at 855-925-2801, meeting code 5125; written comments can be sent to AshevilleCityCouncilJan102023@PublicInput.com until 9 a.m. Jan 10. General comments for City Council can be sent at any time to AshevilleNCCouncil@AshevilleNC.gov.

The full regular meeting agenda and supporting documents can be found here.

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About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the News Editor of Mountain Xpress, coordinating coverage of Western North Carolina's governments, community groups, businesses and environment. His work has previously appeared in Capital at Play, Edible Asheville and the Citizen-Times, among other area publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

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One thought on “Council to vote on water review committee Jan. 10

  1. indy499

    Hopefully this committee will set up several sub-committees and hire some consultants to explore this over the upcoming years.

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