Jan
23

Water System: Decision Makers and Perspective

By

Agenda for today's 2pm Study Committee

Today marks the initial meeting of the Metropolitan Sewage/Water System Committee chaired by Representative Tim Moffitt (R-116). The formation of the Committee followed a controversy generated by the freshman Republican when he filed a bill calling for an outright seizure of the City of Asheville’s water system without mentioning to anyone that he was doing so. Rep. Moffitt reacted to the outcry with the explanation that the initial filing was merely a placeholder. He’s stated that he wants to conduct this study in order to “determine what’s in the best interest of the water system customers“.

You can listen to the audio broadcast of today’s meeting here.

There are lots of reasons for everyone to keep an eye on this process, and I hope that folks get very engaged. In order to most effectively advocate for your position, it’s important to recognize who holds the decision-making power and to tailor one’s advocacy to persuade those holding the reins.

Who’s calling the shots?
Rep. Moffitt started this entire process on his own, and he’s Chairing this Study Committee.

The other members are:
Rep. William Brawley
Rep. William D. Brisson
Rep. Chuck McGrady
Rep. Tom Murry

List of members’ email addresses: Tim.Moffitt@ncleg.net, Bill.Brawley@ncleg.net, William.Brisson@ncleg.net, Tom.Murry@ncleg.net, Chuck.McGrady@ncleg.net

The Study Committee will meet four times and then recommend something. Today’s 2pm meeting will be audio broadcasted here. A meeting will be held in Asheville in late February, and the public will reportedly be invited to offer comments.


If the Committee recommends something other than the status quo, then Rep. Moffitt will need majority support in the House and Senate to pass the changes. The NCGOP controls both bodies. It is unclear whether any proposal will be subject to a Governor’s veto.

From the City’s perspective

The Study Committee will receive input from lots of different folks including the City of Asheville. Here’s a look at the Powerpoint that will be a part of Asheville’s presentation tomorrow.


Looking through this makes it clear that Asheville has consistently been a responsible steward of the water resource while being recognized for fiscal and organizational excellence. No matter what agendas members of the Committee may have, there will be no arguing with the fact that Asheville has done a great job managing this resource while keeping costs low for ratepayers. Some highlights for those of you who couldn’t be arsed to read the powerpoint:

- 20,000 acres of protected watershed in Buncombe County
- Two reservoirs holding roughly 7 billion gallons of stored water
- Average daily demand of about 21 million gallons per day
- Service system area – 183 square miles
- 1,661 miles of water lines
- Number of customers in 2007: 50,903
- Number of customers in 2011: 52,896
- Water system service area includes: three water treatment facilities, forty pump stations, thirty-two storage tanks, 56,000 water meters, 6,650 flushing hydrants
- Water Department has seven divisions with 146 employees.

Estimated value of water system assets: $1.3 billion
Estimated value of Asheville Watershed lands: $719 million

- The City of Asheville has continued to own the water system and its assets, even during the periods covered by the water authority.

Should the legislature seek to convey Asheville’s holdings to another entity, the matter of the $2 billion pricetag is a very important one. Surely the state wouldn’t summarily strip a municipality of a $2 billion asset without reimbursement. Doing so would run afoul of North Carolina law.

Were a new entity to take up ownership and management of the water system…

- they will be responsible for operating costs plus reimbursement costs. These revenues would presumptively come from ratepayers.
- it is unclear to what degree that entity would be accountable to the public.
- it is unclear whether protections against eventual privatization of the water resources would be included in the deal.

The City of Asheville Water System:

1) Has an “appropriate and experienced management team in place”;
2) Has had “consistent moderate growth in water demand”;
3) Is in “excellent financial condition”;
4) Has made “consistent investment in water system infrastructure”; and
5) Has “manageable capital needs and a comprehensive Capital Improvement Plan”.

You can read a brief history of the Asheville Water System here.
You can check out updates at Save Asheville’s Water here.
Insightful op/ed from Barry Summers and Katie Hicks here.

You can write a letter to the editor of the AC-T here.
You can write a letter to the editor of the Mtn. X here.

You can email the Study Committee members by copying these addresses:

Tim.Moffitt@ncleg.net, Bill.Brawley@ncleg.net, William.Brisson@ncleg.net, Tom.Murry@ncleg.net, Chuck.McGrady@ncleg.net


Comments

  1. Wiley says:

    Councilman Smith,

    I’m a little foggy on my facts so this question is largely educational. If a county resident is on the city water service, how is the water system accountable to the county resident – as the county resident does not have a vote in city council elections. Thanks.

    Thumb up 12

  2. NW says:

    Is the meeting open to the Public?

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  3. I’d like to take an opportunity to plug my “Fourth Option” which this powerpoint would seem to support.

    http://ascendofasheville.com/2012/01/17/the-fourth-alternative/

    Tim Moffitt will have a duck-fit, which is another plus, in my opinion. It does everything Moffitt says he wants, except what he really wants that he’s not saying.

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 2

  4. Gordon Smith says:

    NW – the meeting is open to the public, yes.

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 2

  5. Diogenes says:

    Being described by others as a “Dark Green”, I guess the Asheville water issue is pretty simple for me.

    As a finite, natural resource, water cannot be privately owned either by an individual or corporation.

    For the same reason, I believe public access to natural bodies of water, lakes, streams, rivers, oceans must always be preserved and access unrestricted by law or concept of ‘private property.’

    Issues of access to land, air, light, water have long been contentious social and economic issues in human history—and no doubt will continue to be.

    But in argument and debate, the basic principle of no private ownership of natural resources is as good a place to begin as any.

    Anyone interested in some background I highly recommend Tim DeChristopher’s statement to the court at his sentencing for bidding at a Bureau of Land Management auction of public lands in Utah.

    In his case the natural resource was publicly-owned wilderness land that was being sold, illegally, for pennies-on-the-dollar to oil and gas drilling companies—friends and cronies of the Bush Cheney administration.

    It was an act of civil disobedience (and superb monkey-wrenching) that preceded the Occupy movement and one the OWS folks should applaud and emulate.

    http://www.peacefuluprising.org/tims-official-statement-at-his-sentencing-hearing-20110726

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 1

  6. greenweaver says:

    Wow, that was a long meeting.
    The last speaker(name?), not on the agenda, represented the county in the recent litigation over the Sullivan Act. He mentioned the watershed only in regards to the 1996 easement and did not seem to have current information regarding the newer protections.
    I’m still not sure who paid for the watershed. It represents a large fraction of the value of the “system”. It seems as if the bulk of it was paid for through the 1936 renegotiated bonds (1976 maturity). These were revenue bonds? I would need to see numbers for percentages of revenue generated in/out of city limits for between 1936 and 1976 to determine who actually paid for the watershed.

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  7. Heather Rayburn says:

    Gordon,
    Thank you so much for all this good information. Friends, let’s spread the word about this to everyone in our social networks and take time out of our schedules to let people know what Rep. Tim Moffitt is doing. We have the best water in the country, and he wants to give it to the state or WORSE? Surely, the people in his district don’t approve of eminent domain by the state.

    If Moffitt wants to pursue fairness with the water system, he should do something about the Sullivan Act. As a city resident, it is unfair that I have to pay the same rates as someone in the county who wants to run water lines away from the current infrastructure and, especially, up a mountain. It costs more to run county lines, but no one wants to be annexed to have to pay for this valuable urban amenity. As I understand Sullivan, people in the county are getting a welfare break on the back of city taxpayers. That’s the real problem that Moffett should be fixing. Welfare seems to be all bad to Republicans unless it benefits develpers and corporations. I hate to be that cynical, but after reading John Boyle’s column about Moffitt’s actions against our county and city, I feel very worried about this guy:

    http://www.citizen-times.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2012301220036

    Thumb up 6

  8. So, they brought out a hatchet man that was not on the agenda who seemed to be trying to make the point that Asheville does not in fact own, or at least never paid for, the water system, relying on an argument going back to the late fifties and beyond.
    This is obviously a useful argument if you intend to take municipal infrastructure away from a city without paying anything for it.
    I guess the next question is, what will be the city’s response? Asheville needs to be able to repudiate this guy, because he’s Moffitt’s hit man, and the committee will give his opinions an awful lot of credence without an effective counter strategy.
    Can the city’s legal team get this fixed? I hope so.
    I would be interested to know what if anything was, is, or can be done about the slimeball tactics employed at this meeting.
    Politics needs referees!

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 3

  9. Gordon Smith says:

    Is it correct that Rep. Moffitt added a speaker who was not on the agenda and who has a history of hostility towards Asheville regarding the water controversies? What could possibly be the motivation of such a move? Having heard that the process would be extraordinarily transparent, I’m puzzled by this.

    Thumb up 3

  10. Gordon Smith says:

    From a Mtn. X comment thread:

    Statement from Tim Schaller, Asheville Brewers Alliance President, to Esther Manheimer, in advance of today’s meeting:

    The Asheville Brewers Alliance is concerned about maintaining the quality of our water.
    We are aware that prior to the City taking responsibility, water quality was at risk.
    As an aside, when water rates were recently increased, the ABA acknowledged that good water is worth the money. We supported paying the same rate as our customers and neighbors.
    Tim Schaller
    President,
    Asheville Brewers Alliance

    Thumb up 5

  11. Davyne Dial says:

    From John Boyle’s ACT commentary on Jan 21st
    “I’m very approachable, and I’m a lifelong member of our community. I’m an employer, and I’m active in scouting and youth sports,” Moffitt said. “Quite honestly, I don’t understand why there’s a level of distrust.”

    Well the first thing that comes to mind for me, straying from the set agenda by producing an unscheduled, hostile speaker. Breaking from parlimentary procedure is a big problem & Mr. Moffitt knows full well that the only recourse to anything decided is an expensive lawsuit. So in response to Mr. Moffitt’s statement regarding how perplexed his is to the distrust, it’s laughable at best, at worst,…. total b.s.

    Thumb up 9

  12. Doug Gibson says:

    Not to worry, folks. I’m sure the full report in next week’s Xpress will include a comment from someone at the Institute of Government that producing an unscheduled speaker at a hearing like this might possibly be somewhat unprecedented.

    And then Nelda Holder will ask Moffitt if he meant to do something somewhat unprecedented, and he’ll chalk it up to inexperience, and that will be that.

    Thumb up 9

  13. Gordon Smith says:

    The surprise speaker was Bob Long. He used some of the same arguments that Rep. Moffitt was using on a phone call with Barry Summers several weeks ago. From the AC-T story:

    Another presenter, Bob Long, was the attorney for Buncombe County in a lawsuit on the water system against the city after Asheville took sole control in 2005.

    Long said that court decisions and past government actions showed that water customers in and outside the city, rather than city taxpayers, had the greatest stake in the system because bonds were backed by water bill payments, not city taxes.

    “I don’t think it can be said that anybody but the customers paid for the Asheville water system,” he said.

    That ran counter to Asheville Water Resources Department Director Steve Shoaf’s statement that system’s customers are like those in a restaurant that is “owned by the citizens of Asheville who have pledged their full faith and credit.”

    After the meeting, committee member Rep. William Brawley, of Mecklenburg, expressed support for the joint Charlotte-Mecklenburg system that he said services his home of Mathews well.

    Do you think the whole thing might just be a set-up?

    Thumb up 3

  14. Doug Gibson says:

    Well, it certainly sounds – from his public comments – that Mark Cates is buying the “customers paid for it” argument. Is he on the Asheville City Council or the Buncombe County Commission?

    Thumb up 0

  15. Doug Gibson says:

    Somebody get me a copy of the 2011 city council results – apparently I’ve been misinformed. Or undercaffeinated. My apologies to private citizen Cates.

    Thumb up 0

  16. We may never know how lucky we are that Mr. Cates remains a private citizen.

    Thumb up 5

  17. shadmarsh says:

    Luckily all that voter fraud kept him off council.

    Thumb up 3

  18. Unaffiliated Voter says:

    you all did yourselves a severe disservice by not voting for Mark Cates…strive to be smarter…

    Thumb up 9

  19. Doug Gibson says:

    UA,

    Having made the original error, I absolutely agree that I should strive to be smarter. No argument there.

    At the same time, though, since Cates seems to be arguing that the city deserves no compensation for the water system, it’s hard to believe that the people of Asheville did themselves a disservice by not electing him. Regardless of his position on any other issue, it’s clear now that the city dodged a bullet.

    And given that his stance on the water dispute would probably have sabotaged his ability to work with his fellow council members on any other issue, I can’t see now how conservatives would have gotten any real benefit from his election, either.

    I mean, geez. Even Joe Dunn would admit on occasion that Asheville was getting the shaft.

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 1

  20. Heather Rayburn says:

    When is Moffitt’s term up and who is running against him. I am ready to volunteer.

    Thumb up 4

  21. I second that last question. Is the local Democratic party still looking for a viable candidate at this late date? I cannot believe they could be so dysfunctional.

    Thumb up 6

  22. shadmarsh says:

    you all did yourselves a severe disservice by not voting for Mark Cates…strive to be smarter…

    Then why do I feel dumber after reading this?

    Thumb up 3

  23. Dixiegirlz says:

    Hey there Heather…so delighted to have another female voice here at ScrooHoo. Not many of us around.

    Thumb up 3

  24. RHS says:

    “I mean, geez. Even Joe Dunn would admit on occasion that Asheville was getting the shaft.”

    So did Carl Mumpower.

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 3

  25. RHS says:

    “you all did yourselves a severe disservice by not voting for Mark Cates…strive to be smarter…”

    We were smart enough to know that his claims of being a progressive were a lie.

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 4

  26. Andrew Dahm says:

    The Cates-Peck ticket was, indeed, tempting, but I took a pass. I do not own reptiles or have a tattoo. Nor am I a reptile, for that matter.

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 4

  27. Heather Rayburn says:

    Hi Davyne!

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 3

  28. Dixiegirlz says:

    With only 13.31% of total votes, most folks said, thanks, but no thanks, to Mr. Cates slick pr an whole lot of $$$$$s, and obfuscation efforts.

    Thumb up 5

  29. Mark Cates says:

    Doug,

    I think you need to read more carefully. You are adding much of your own interpretation to my comments.

    “Well, it certainly sounds – from his public comments – that Mark Cates is buying the “customers paid for it” argument.”

    There cannot be any doubt about who paid for it. The city derives it’s revenue from taxes. The people paid for it. Even if the city takes out a bond, the people pay off the bond. If the city buys property, the people paid for it. Stating who paid for it, doesn’t imply anything about what I would do to resolve our water issues.

    I have not advocated at all for taking the water system away from Asheville, but quite the opposite. I proposed a way for Asheville to not only keep it’s water system, but to actually work with Raleigh and pay for upgrading it.

    “since Cates seems to be arguing that the city deserves no compensation for the water system,”

    No clue how you arrived at that Doug. From my perspective, if we as a city put money into the water system outside of revenue collected for water, then the city should be compensated. Which is why I said the other day, that I would like to see those numbers.

    RHS

    “We were smart enough to know that his claims of being a progressive were a lie.”

    Well, that’s interesting since I never claimed to be a progressive. I consistently defined myself as an Asheville Republican. Care to cite an example of me saying I am a progressive?

    (See Gordon… told you I could get my daily progressive Liar Quota filled here and I didn’t even have to post in order to do so.)

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 3

  30. Mark Cates says:

    Doug,

    You can see here at Scrutiny Hooligans that I was talking about how Asheville can take care of it’s water system long before this study came about.

    Tom Buckner
    July 9th, 2011 at 6:47 am
    “Asheville does need to have conversation about its water system. It’s something we’ve put off and put off and put off. And then we all said: “Screw it, let’s put in bike lanes.” But I think I’m stating the obvious here when I say Asheville doesn’t want to have that conversation with a straight, white, male Republican. Asheville doesn’t like Republicans. Asheville doesn’t trust Republicans. A socially liberal, female, business owner Republican, maybe.”

    http://scrutinyhooligans.us/2012/01/23/water-system-decision-makers-and-perspective/comment-page-1/#comment-63578

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 3

  31. Mark Cates says:

    Posted wrong link… here is the correct one.

    http://scrutinyhooligans.us/2011/07/08/city-council-open-thread-2/#comments

    Interesting reading that thread… back in the day there were progressives that wanted to have a serious discussion about the water system.

    “I remain unconvinced that Sen. Nesbitt has done all he could for the City Of Ashville in regards to this issue.”

    This comment is just another reminder that Asheville’s water problem has always been Dem’s on Dem’s behaving badly.

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 3

  32. Davyne Dial says:

    League of Women Voters is co-sponsoring a forum on the water issue. Feb 13, at 7:00 pm @ Grace Covenant Church on Merrimon Ave.
    http://www.mountainx.com/article/39849/League-of-Women-Voters-announces-Monday-Feb.-13-public-forum-to-discuss-water-system

    “Panelists will include Esther Manheimer, the Asheville City Council representative to the legislative study committee; State Rep. and former Flat Rock town councilman Chuck McGrady; and Dr. Gene Rainey, the chair of the Buncombe County Commission when the Regional Water Authority was established in 1994. The panel will also include representation from the Legislative committee and experts from the Asheville Water Department and the Metropolitan Sewerage District, who will be able to provide technical expertise.

    Like all League forums, the Feb. 13 forum will be nonpartisan, free and open to the public. The forum is cosponsored by the weekly Mountain Xpress and the monthly Urban News newspapers. For more information please contact the League at 828-252-8569.”

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 3

  33. Davyne Dial says:

    Anyone know why a comment with a link is not being posted? I’ve made three attempts, to post info about League of Women Voters public forum on the water issue, and it will not go through. grrr!

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 1

  34. TJ says:

    Hi Davyne and Heather. Still here but just observing for now, to learn more.

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  35. Doug Gibson says:

    Mark,

    Thanks for responding. I’m sure you know more about the issue than I do.

    I have to tell you though, that as a citizen I find absolutely astonishing the notion that the City of Asheville is only due to be compensated for money invested in the water system outside of revenues collected by the system. And I have, perhaps mistakenly, taken your statement to what seems like a logical conclusion: that if Asheville can’t show having made any additional investment in the system you don’t think Asheville deserves any compensation at all.

    So I have a hypothetical question:

    Let’s say the state legislature simply transferred ownership of $1 million of water system assets from the City of Asheville to the MSD.

    Let’s say, too, that the city couldn’t prove that it put anything into building those assets beyond revenues collected from the water system.

    Under that scenario do you think Asheville would deserve any compensation for the loss of those assets?

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  36. Gordon Smith says:

    Davyne,

    Your link to the LWV forum got caught up in the spam filter. I fished it out for you. I’ll post about it on the front page before long.

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 2

  37. Mark Cates says:

    Doug,

    Never said that was the only compensation due the city. I just said that the city would need to be compensated for that. That’s why a study is relevant. There may be many aspects to determining any compensation and many ways to look at the water system. It is important that everyone work together.

    Some might say that water is a “resource” and should not be treated like an asset to be sold off to the highest bidder. Others might disagree. The first step is really defining how to look at the situation.

    It’s also relevant to think about “who” will be paying any compensation. That will be the taxpayer. You and I.

    But to answer your question, I think we should study the situation first before we start drawing conclusions. We need to determine how we will define “value” of the water system. Will we treat it like a resource for all or like an asset or both? We also need to determine if we are going treat Asheville like a privately held company or a city funded by tax dollars.

    Let’s answer some of those questions and then talk about the next step.

    I will say this… my preference is to have Asheville solve the water infrastructure problem by working with Buncombe and Raleigh. Hence, my focus on a solution to do just that during my campaign.

    And this… I don’t really care “who” owns the water system, I just want clean water to my son’s school. I don’t want my son to come home and tell me he can’t drink the water all week because it is brown. I don’t want to watch the water pour down my street. I don’t want to have another tree fall over in my yard because of the city’s poor water infrastructure.

    We have some of the best water in the world, combined with a nearly third world infrastructure. I will acknowledge work is being done and that is great. I want more work done… faster and I was willing to put my money where my mouth was on that issue.

    I believe it is the city’s responsibility to come up with a method to do just that. They have not and cannot do so alone. Hence, I offered my own solution that could work within the limitations imposed by the state.

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 2

  38. Dixiegirlz says:

    Thanks Gordon, we’re hoping to present an impartial, informative forum to the public.

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  39. Doug Gibson says:

    Mark,

    Thanks again for responding.

    So what I’m getting here is that when you said (in this thread)

    From my perspective, if we as a city put money into the water system outside of revenue collected for water, then the city should be compensated. Which is why I said the other day, that I would like to see those numbers.

    You meant this:

    From my perspective, if we as a city put money into the water system outside of revenue collected for water, then the city should be compensated for that money in addition to any other fair compensation for the infrastructure itself.

    Do I have that right? If so, I’m sorry I misunderstood you.

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  40. Davyne Dial says:

    @ Mr. Cates or anyone else in the know. What other Cities are facing this same issue. Are we the only City in the country whee the seizure of a water system is a possibility?

    I am quite willing to give the present management of our water system some benefit of doubt, given the unique geological issues due to our granite foundations. That said, I’m sure there has been some mismanagement in the past. I am well aware that there is little to no oversight in our local Government over many public areas, (Sheriff’s Dept, Police Dept, URTV management and assets, Community Relations council, etc.) Still, aside from the occasional “brown water” that comes out of the faucet, when work is being done to make a repair to the system…I’m very happy with my water. I moved here from New Orleans, and our water source in NOLA was the Mississippi River, and it cost twice as much as the water here…..which is pristine mountain water.

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 2

  41. Mark Cates says:

    Davyne,

    As far as NC is concerned, there is no doubt that Asheville’s circumstances are unique. That is exactly why it is so important to come up with a unique proposal in order to resolve this long standing problem.

    It’s great you are happy with your water, but I have never experienced so many water problems as in Asheville. Which is why I proposed a solution to this long term problem in my recent city council campaign.

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 2

  42. Mark Cates says:

    Doug,

    My comment was specific. Your addition of “in addition to any other fair compensation for the infrastructure itself” is undefined.

    I have attempted to answer your questions… now I think it is your turn.

    Give me a list of “any other” then I will think about it and give you an answer.

    Also,define for me “who” is going to provide the compensation?

    And all of these questions: “We need to determine how we will define “value” of the water system. Will we treat it like a resource for all or like an asset or both? We also need to determine if we are going treat Asheville like a privately held company or a city funded by tax dollars.”

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 1

  43. trifecta says:

    People in front of Asheville Pizza Brewing tried to illegally take my water. #fact

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 2

  44. Andrew Dahm says:

    Mr. Cates might be blaming management for systemic problems.

    The water system is physically huge, given the number of people it serves.

    The City instigated the construction of both reservoirs, over the objections/derision of County politicos. I would commend a study of the practics and politics of Mayor Cathey viz the County. The reservoirs belong to the City of Asheville.

    The default of 11 water districts out in the County during the crash of ’29 led to deferred maintenance and the huge capital improvements bill the City has been working its way through for quite some time. To lay the maintenance problems of a bankrupt facility at the door of management is pretty disingenuous.

    It is worth noting that the City of Asheville was able to repay every dime it borrowed in the 20s for public works – including the water reservoir and transmission system – which is something many other parties cannot say.

    It’s been interesting to watch the bash-Asheville crowd on the water issue and others. What’s conveniently missing is this: Buncombe County government is less open, less careful with its money, less hamstrung than the city funding-wise, generates less tourism revenue, fewer jobs, and so on. To those who say there’s a better administrative body out there than the City of Asheville: Prove it.

    And, of course, that’s the point. If the system is confiscated and passed to County/MSD control for a decent interval before obvious incompetence militates for privatization, do not be surprised.

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 3

  45. TJ says:

    @Mark Cates:

    Although you did not make it on City Council, do you share your ideas and work with Marc and Esther, who both have expressed a passion for dealing with the water system as well, when I spoke with them?

    I just wondered if not making the council creates a divide that stalls or prevents some great ideas from being formulated? I would hope you do, because if anyone REALLY wants to be a “public servannt,” it should hold true, even if one is not in the spotlight, or across our ideological differences. Otherwise, I would have to question how much of a public servant one may have been IF elected, should that person (in this case, you) choose to try again next election.

    Either way, I hope divisions don’t keep all those qualified (as I certainly am NOT) to confront such important issues, from unifying their efforts and helping build a better and stronger Asheville.

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  46. Doug Gibson says:

    Mark,

    I guess I was prepared to leave the discussion of “fair” for another thread. Your idea of “fair” might vary widely from mine, but I thought we could both agree that the city deserved “fair” compensation.

    Really, I did. I thought we agreed. I wasn’t being sneaky or snarky – I thought I had misunderstood you and was hoping for some clarity.

    So are you saying that as of now you have no idea, no ballpark, for what “fair” compensation might be, or even a vague notion how one might go about assessing what might make for fair compensation?

    What about just an estimate of how much it might cost to acquire the infrastructure in today’s dollars minus depreciation and estimated cost of repairs?

    What about a nominal price – say one dollar? Can you agree that the government of the City of Asheville deserves at least $1 for the water infrastructure under its control in addition to whatever the city has invested beyond water revenues? Or maybe at least as much as can be raised by passing the hat at the next study committee meeting?

    And I can come up with a number of ways to compensate city ratepayers and taxpayers.

    Take the reservoirs, for example. How about the city gets a fair market repayment for all water the MSD takes out of the reservoirs? Then the city could decide whether to add that to the general fund or give it back to taxpayers via a rebate. Alternately the MSD could rebate the cost of city water directly to city residents via their water bills.

    Or the MSD could be limited to charging city ratepayers only for the transmission of water, and not for whatever it costs them to acquire the resource – perhaps for a limited time, say 99 years.

    I’m sure there are a number of variations you could think of, but the principle remains the same: whatever compensation is agreed on, structure rates so that those who use the water pay the compensation – and will bear a greater or lesser burden, depending on how much they use – and so that the people of Asheville receive that compensation, whether directly or through their city government.

    You could leave it up to the citizens to decide which they’d prefer – either through a referendum or indirectly through the city council.

    And all this is just off the top of my head (obviously).

    So – let me see. “A list of ‘any other’”: check (surely you didn’t want an exhaustive list). “Who provides the compensation”: check.

    Oh, wait. I forgot two. Water is a resource. The means by which we get it into people’s homes is an asset, built over the course of years as people, generally though their government, make decisions about how to invest revenues collected by whatever means. And when Asheville sells a bus ticket, it’s a business. No taxpayer expects to be able to ride for free simply by dint of being a taxpayer, just as I don’t expect free water simply by dint of being a taxpayer.

    Nor do I expect, when the pipe to my outdoor spigot freezes and bursts, to be able to go out, dig up the street, and take a replacement out of the ground just because “I’ve been paying for water all these years.”

    Honestly, it seems to me that you could just as easily make the case that Asheville doesn’t deserve compensation for “any additional money” – that is taxpayer money – it has invested in the water system. But it does deserve some compensation for the money collected from ratepayers – particularly Asheville ratepayers – over the years.

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  47. Dixiegirlz says:

    I’m picking up “not so veiled” contempt here from Mr Cates response to my statement #41. Maybe my being satisfied with my water quality (compared to my former water supply of the Mississippi River when I lived in New Orleans)….is because I don’t know sh_t from shinola, which is what his inference is….maybe long suffering opposition to the local entrenched power structure have legitimate beefs…but don’t you dare think for an instant that we will let this asset slip away without a monumental fight. Just sayin.

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