On Jan. 30, I forgot to follow through with a late water payment to the city of Asheville. Truly my bad. Fifteen days later, a man in a big truck came by the house and shut the water off. It worked. I paid. They came by the same day and turned it back on. That’s great service … or is it?
I emailed Terry Bellamy and a bunch of head folks at the Water Resources Department and asked them if they would send automatic emails like our city library so graciously does or give a phone call when a bill is due to cut down on the big truck driving. I got no response. Maggie Ullman, energy coordinator for the city of Asheville, and Laura Piraino, sustainability outreach specialist, gave a talk on the city of Asheville’s Sustainability Plan to a class I’m in at A-B Tech. I asked them if they could help me with my simple cause of getting automatic emails or phone calls informing people that in a few days their water was to be shut off for nonpayment and thus save lots of gas, money and carbon. They responded that despite overseeing a citywide initiative to reduce carbon output, they don’t have anything to do with water billing. I also sent the sustainability department an email and suggested the same. Unfortunately there was again no response to my email.
For research purposes, on Feb. 28, I called the Water Resources Department. An employee said that they shut off up to 60 per day at a fee of $50, and said they were in fact doing 60 that day and that around 90 percent would pay their bill and be turned on that same day.
Apparently, 90 percent had the money, overlooked the bill and paid an extra $50 just like me. The water department grossed around $3,000 that day for shutoffs. I do my best to use as little energy as possible. I graduated in environmental studies from Warren Wilson College and am a current student in the A-B Tech Sustainable Technologies program. I love the new Asheville Sustainability plan and the associated energy cutbacks. I ride my bike daily, my water heater is on a timer and I heat my house with wood. But I now feel more obnoxious than productive in my simple cause to improve the cities billing-notification systems. Want it? The city sure doesn’t.
— Mike Diethelm