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Who’s rates will drop? HENDERSON’S!

March 25, 2012

The Asheville Citizen-Times (ACT) ran a story on March 22 called “Water rate changes possible if Asheville is stripped of system” that led with this sentence, “Some residents could see a nearly 28 percent drop in bills with the merger of two of Henderson and Buncombe counties’ most important utilities, officials running the region’s largest sewer system said Wednesday.”

I hope people in Buncombe read past that sentence to find out that it’s HENDERSON County residents — not Buncombe’s — whose rates will drop if this game of grab ass by the state materializes. The ACT story continued with its report from the the  Metropolitan Sewerage District (MSD)’s Planning Committee:

“Water users in and around Asheville, meanwhile, could see no difference in their rates or small annual increases if the city waterworks were taken and given to the Buncombe County Metropolitan Sewerage District. Local and state officials have been discussing those changes to some of the region’s most important utilities in terms of health and economic development. The changes would mean merging sewer systems in the two counties as well as a possible legislative takeover of Asheville’s water system. MSD’s Planning Commitee on Wednesday talked about the effects of those mergers, including water and sewer rates.”

The story then has this confusing statement, “Buncombe customers, too, could be relieved of some planned rate increases, Hartye said. He pointed to industrial growth in northern Henderson, such as the arrival of a new Sierra Nevada brewery.” I have no idea how the arrival of a new brewery in Henderson County will lower Buncombe County’s rates. Maybe they’ll do a follow-up to clarify.

Valerie Hoh was at the meeting, and she said Mr. Hartye, Buncombe County MSD director, said that compensation to the City for its $1 billion water asset would be the unknown factor as well as the litigation that could result from a forced takeover. Who’s going to foot the bill for these costs? Um … I’d guess the ratepayers and taxpayers.

Now here’s the real kick in the pants for the people of Buncombe, “Henderson County commissioners are considering building a multimillion-dollar sewage treatment plant to deal with burgeoning residential and industrial demand. But Henderson sewerage customers could avoid having to pay the debt of that plant if Cane Creek merged with MSD. Officials from the two counties discussed the idea in recent years, but talks stalled.”

Another thing to consider: MSD rates have risen faster than water rates over the years. Something I’ve never heard Rep. Tim Moffitt, the person behind this reckless situation, address. Another thing to think about — how many votes Henderson County will get if the Henderson and Buncombe merge and Asheville’s water is stolen by the state?  Don’t stand by and let us lose local control of our water! Take action today.

Buncombe County businesses and residents alike need to ask:  Will our rates really go down under Moffitt’s plan? And why is he working so very, very hard to have BUNCOMBE COUNTY subsidize Henderson County’s sewer problems?

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