May 23, 2022 —- Mayor Patrick Fitzsimmons

I was tasked by the Town Council Water System Committee to meet with various stakeholders and area governments to examine possible alternatives to water plant expansion or collaborative opportunities to meet future regional water demands. Over the past few months I have done that and as a result of those conversations, I make the following recommendations to Town Council:

  • Develop a more aggressive tiered pricing system for water. The current pricing structure provides no incentive for users to conserve water usage. Conservation is the easiest and least expensive way to reduce usage and delay need for expanded water capacity. I suggest we create a tiered pricing structure that provides the first 3000 gallons per month at $9.22 per 1000 gallons, the current rate and the amount the average household uses in one month. For 3,001 to 10,000 gallons the rate would be 50% more at $13.83 per 1000 gallons, and for more than 10,001 gallons at $18.44 per 1000 gallons. As an example a customer who uses 5000 gallons currently would pay $48 and under new system would pay $55.00.

Timeline: implement in new fiscal year, July 2022

  • Apply for state funds in conjunction with the town of Marshall. Marshall is interested in building a water line to connect to Mars Hill’s system. Mars Hill wants to connect help provide water to Marshall but be able to use our water also as their capacity is fairly limited. Marshall anticipates they will have their engineering reports completed for such a project in July. I recommend we apply for state funds to expand our water treatment plant with the provision that we will supply Marshall with their water needs via Mars Hill at rates we charge our customers. Our chance of acquiring funding in conjunction with Marshall is much greater than if we pursue funding ourselves due to the fact the Marshall is considered a town at financial risk and in a Tier 2 county ranking their prospects of funding much higher. It is anticipated that there will be a second round of state ARP funding for infrastructure projects in August or September. We need to be an applicant and we should apply for as full cost of expansion. The max municipalities can apply for in the current round of ARP funds is $15 million.

Update: I have met with our local state legislator and secured his support for this project. I meet with the Madison County officials this week and will ask them to gain the support of their state legislators also.

Timeline: Apply to the state in August 2022

  • Retrofit water line connection to Mars Hill. Apparently the water line we have between the two cities has water only flowing one way. Seemingly the pump could be retrofitted for water to flow both ways. This would mitigate both of our risks for any water emergencies that may occur. Mars Hill agrees this is a good idea and that we would sell water to each other as needed at regular customer rates.

Update: Public Works Director researched this and advises this can be easily accomplished.

Timeline: end of 2022

  •  Connect our system to Woodfin Water. Our water lines literally cross over Woodfin’s water lines at several locations yet there is no valve to connect the two systems anywhere. We should build such a connection so that we could get water from them or they from us in emergencies or when either needed supplemental water. Woodfin currently produces water and purchases extra from Asheville all which could flow into our system through such a connection.

Update: Public Works Director researched this and advises we actually had a connection in the past and that this too could be easily accomplished.

Timeline: by the end of 2022

  •  Negotiate extra water supply from Asheville. Asheville has considerable water capacity and by law can only charge other municipalities the same rate they charge their own customers. We __ gallons per day which we could supplement our water supply with at a low cost.

Update: We have requested a meeting with the Asheville Water System

Timeline: by the end of 2022

  •  Expand our Water Treatment plant. All of the above recommendations will help reduce water usage, provide for emergency and supplemental water for our system, build regional diversification of water supply by connecting Asheville, Woodfin, Weaverville, Mars Hill and Marshall systems, thereby mitigating risk during emergencies for all communities. However, if an attempt to acquire state funding to pay for our water plant expansion through a cooperative proposal with Marshall (with Madison Co. and Marsh Hill as partners) is not successful in the fall of 2022 Weaverville will need to expand their own water treatment plant through a USDA loan soon after.  A decision to do so, if the proposal with Marshall fails, should be done before the end of 2022.

Timeline: by the end of 2022

 NOTICE: The Mayor and Town Council will be further discussing the aforementioned recommendations at a workshop on June 20, 2022 at 6pm at Town Hall. The public is invited to attend and give input at this meeting.