Water fee increases clear Council

ROLL CALL: Members of Asheville City Council raise their hands in favor of residential water fee increases. The vote took place after Budget Manager Taylor Floyd, center, said the city would not meet infrastructure maintenance needs and fund other expenses without fee increases. Screen capture courtesy of the city of Asheville

A weekslong debate over water fees for Asheville residents came to an end April 25 after Asheville City Council voted 5-2 to implement increases recommended by city staff. The new rates will take effect in July and will cost a typical household roughly $43 more per year. Council members Kim Roney and Sage Turner opposed the change. 

The decision comes after an extended back-and-forth between Council and staffers on whether the city could freeze rates for residential customers while still generating the revenue needed for water infrastructure maintenance and other expenses. Council had voted unanimously March 28 to delay approval of the fee increases, asking staff to rework the water budget. 

But during an April 11 budget work session, Asheville Budget Manager Taylor Floyd again recommended the rate hike. He said that the water budget would fall short by $2.5 million without the higher residential fees.

At the April 25 meeting, Council member Roney reiterated concerns over the lack of options presented to Council. She also requested information about why residential customers pay higher rates for water than commercial or industrial water consumers. (Single-family and multifamily housing customers pay $4.77 and $4.20 per cubic foot, respectively, compared with as little as $2.29 per cubic foot for large manufacturers.)

“I know that there’s benefits to economic development and to local businesses when we have incentives and programs that support them. But this isn’t a new conversation, and I’m not sure if ‘Hurry up and move ahead’ will result in what we want, which is change,” Roney explained. “Even though I know that we are going to have to have [regular] rate increases, I’m fundamentally opposed to continuing the bulk discount at this level, which is why I can’t support it.”

“I’m just sensitive to rising costs for the residents right now, especially after the conversation of potentially being wanting to freeze it and then reversing on that,” added Turner. She said she had received emails from constituents concerned about Council’s apparent about-face. 

Two members of the public also spoke out against the fee increases. Former City Council candidate Andrew Fletcher pointed to the discount that commercial water customers enjoy when buying water in bulk, while resident Katy Hudson voiced frustration at the pushback Council had received from city staff. 

“This meeting clarified one thing: that city staff are ignoring City Council, and therefore, democracy,” said Hudson. “I think that you guys are being disrespected en masse.”

Council member Maggie Ullman said her vote in favor of the increases was contingent on Council reviewing the results of a cost-of-service study and revisiting the issue this fall. Floyd said that study is currently underway and will offer insights into how the city may restructure its water fees and rates.

Following the increase vote, Council unanimously approved a motion to reconsider water rates after that analysis was completed. Council could then vote to update the fees or rate structure later this year, with any changes taking effect at the start of 2024.


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5 thoughts on “Water fee increases clear Council

  1. MV

    Will I still have to pay $2 for a bottle of water at Asheville Tourists games to further line the pockets of wealthy white corporate welfare recipients? I can’t afford 8 bucks for beer…

  2. Rick

    “Single-family and multifamily housing customers pay $4.77 and $4.20 per cubic foot, respectively, compared with as little as $2.29 per cubic foot for large manufacturers.” I believe the author meant per one hundred cubic (the bill is in CCF units).

  3. MV

    But see, when council wants to do something (like support corporate grift for single A baseball), emails from constituents are said to matter (‘Golly, gee, we got 1700 emails saying, Let’s Play Ball!’). But when those same corporate welfare recipients don’t want to pay more for water, taxpayer voices apparently don’t matter. If the city won’t freeze rates, will they at least assure us that our water won’t freeze again next holiday season?

  4. dyfed

    The cost of maintaining the system for commercial and industrial users is lower than for residential users, and commercial and industrial use a lot more water, so charging them less makes sense.

    Think about it this way… why does it cost less per peanut to buy a million peanuts in a giant drum at Costco than it does to go to a convenience store and buy an individually wrapped packet of peanuts?

    Sure you could charge those users more in order to placate residential users but frankly that is not fair nor does it reflect the underlying fiscal realities.

    Of course no one will be surprised to hear that Roney and Turner are not fans of pragmatism or realism.

    • rwd

      Hey…are you riddling something here ? ? Keep it simple for the rest of us…something like…you don’t think the users of large volumes of water intake and sewage / water runoff output need to be charged at a higher rate.

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