Henderson County commissioners voice concerns about new water-sewer merger
The Hendersonville Times-News
reports that Henderson County commissioners have several reservations about House Bill 488, which strips Asheville of the local water system and merges it — along with a Henderson system, Cane Creek — with the Metropolitan Sewerage District.
For starters, Henderson commissioner want five members on the new 15-member, water-sewer board, not three, as HB 488 proposes.
Commissioners agree House Bill 488, co-sponsored by Rep. Chuck McGrady and two Republican colleagues, has one major flaw: it gives Henderson County too little representation, with three seats on a 15-member governing board.
"I've spoken with several commissioners one-on-one and a fair amount with (County Manager) Steve Wyatt, and we're in full agreement that we've got to have at least five on that board," said Vice Chairman Tommy Thompson.
Commissioners also voiced serious concerns about getting tied up "'with an extra level of government'" and ceding Cane Creek infrastructure and $3.4 million fund balance. Commissioner Grady Hawkins also remarked on the likelihood that the merger will produce "litigation galore.'"
Another aspect of the bill that they find troubling is granting tax authority to MSD (although the agency already has it, the power has not been used).
Commissioners also noted that the bill doesn't create a truly regional authority, because several systems in Buncombe and Henderson counties are excluded from the merger. According to the Times-News
, Commissioner Larry Young commented, '"If we're going to have a true regional water authority, that's what it needs to be. Two-thirds of the city of Hendersonville's customers are out in the county, but they're not included in this.'"