A week after Asheville called a press conference to discuss “significant disruption” to its water system, City Council members will consider a package of fees and charges that would increase what residents and businesses pay for water service. Taken together, the adjustments on the docket for Council’s meeting on Tuesday, April 9, would generate nearly $1 million in new annual revenue for water operations and capital improvements.
For single-family residential accounts, the charge per hundred cubic feet of water consumed would increase by 8 cents, from $4.13 to $4.21, while the monthly Capital Improvement Fee would rise 9 cents, from $4.17 to $4.26. The base fee per monthly bill would get a 13-cent boost, from $6.21 to $6.34. In a staff report issued before the meeting, city CFO Barbara Whitehorn estimated the total annual impact of these changes as $6.60 per household.
Monthly stormwater fees will also increase, yielding roughly $304,000 in extra income for the city. Single-family residential properties of less than 2,000 square feet will pay an extra 15 cents per month, up from $3.05 to $3.20. Those between 2,001 and 4,000 square feet will owe 24 more cents (from $4.86 to $5.10), while properties greater than 4,001 square feet will owe 34 more cents (from $6.69 to $7.03). Whitehorn estimated these changes will cost the average household $1.80 per year.
While grading and stormwater permits, water development fees and fire inspections would all get more expensive under the new fee schedule, a handful of decreases are also under consideration. The cost to rent a city-owned event space at 14 Riverside Drive would go down by 25%, while the U.S. Cellular Center Banquet Hall and Thomas Wolfe Auditorium would be available to nonprofits during weekdays at discounted rates.
In other business
Council will take up a conditional zoning proposal and lease agreement with Buncombe County to permit the construction of a new East Asheville Library building at the branch’s current Tunnel Road location. The conditional zoning is necessary because the new single-story construction would cover roughly 15,000 square feet; by code, single-story buildings in Community Business I zoning require special approval to exceed 6,000 square feet.
Asheville would lease the property to Buncombe County for 99 years at $1 annually, with the county taking all responsibility for site improvements and maintenance. At a Nov. 20 meeting of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, former interim County Manager George Wood noted that the projected cost of the new library is $5.8 million, roughly $1.3 million more than an initial estimate.
Council members will also consider new standards for small wireless facilities, also known as “microcells,” that could be added to increase network coverage throughout the city. In a report issued before the meeting, staff members said state legislation prohibits cities from adopting all but “aesthetic” regulations on the infrastructure.
Council’s consent agenda for the meeting contains 11 items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include resolutions to:
- Authorize a contract for up to $373,230 with Nashville-based Earl Swensson Associates for phase one design of Thomas Wolfe Auditorium renovations. The scope of work covers “programming and conceptual design with various levels of improvements that will be used for budgeting purposes.”
- Execute a $121,882.08 contract with Sundance Power Systems of Weaverville to install a 64-kilowatt solar array on the canopy of the ART Transit Station. The contract may be amended up to $230,000 for “unforeseen infrastructure improvements” or to expand the capacity and warranty terms of the array.
- Approve a contract of up to $128,665 with Allison Contractors of Asheville to construct bus shelters, concrete pads and attached sidewalks. Stops to be improved include Tunnel Road and White Pine Drive, Lakeshore Drive at Cherry Lane and State Street at Hanover Street.
- Amend a contract with Greensboro-based J. Brady Contracting for an additional $3.38 million to complete HVAC and mechanical modernization for the U.S. Cellular Center. A total of $1.875 million in previously unbudgeted funding will come from the U.S. Cellular Center Capital Maintenance Project budget and fund balance.
Asheville City Council meets at 5 p.m. in council chambers on the second floor of City Hall at 70 Court Plaza, Asheville. Council will also hold a budget work session to review and discuss the city’s enterprise funds and Capital Improvement Fund beginning at 3 p.m. The full meeting agenda and supporting documents can be found here.