Town Looking for Water Partners - TribPapers

Town Looking for Water Partners

Woodfin Water’s tank on Reynolds Mountain. Photo by Clint Parker.

WeavervilleWeaverville – The Town of Weaverville is exploring ways for making its water department a regional utility instead of merely a town-owned public work. At the town council’s March meeting, Weaverville Mayor Patrick Fitzsimmons brought the board up to speed on the progress of the exploration.

The council moved toward a collaborative model for the water department when the board learned about the cost for doubling the water treatment plant’s capacity from 1.5 million gallons a day to 3 million gallons a day. This increase stirred some locals to start the group as the Ivy River is designated as the water source for the plant. 

According to an engineering firm, the price tag for the expansion is over $13 million and counting. The price for the plant will not be fixed until construction expansion contracts are signed due to inflation and foreseeable increases in construction and material cost.

Anybody want to join in on a water treatment plant?

“Buncombe County, quite frankly, said they didn’t relish getting into the water business, so they didn’t have any interest or desire to work with us on that. However, they did say they are now excepting applications and proposals for their rescue plan monies which a large portion can be designated for large infrastructure projects and…if we had something that we would need to fund to facilitate the expansion of the water plant in the future, they would consider funding that,” Fitzsimmons told the board. He said the town is working on a proposal.

He also said Weaverville had met with the Town of Mars Hill. Mars Hill is in a very lucky position. They have a reservoir and they are only utilizing about 38 percent of their water at this point. So they have no need [of a collaboration].” The Town of Marshall was also supposed to meet with Fitzsimmons, but there was a problem and they did not attend the meeting.  However, Mars Hill did feel that Marshall had a “more pressing issue.” 

Fitzsimmons told the board that the town had a water line to Mars Hill and that Madison County recently received $12 million to build a water line connecting Marshall to Mars Hill.  He said there was a possibility to get “some significant funding from the state” to do the waterline and the expansion project according to the Land of Sky Regional Council. Furthermore, said the town would have to move quickly as the deadlines are in May, but there might be a second opportunity in the fall.

The Town of Woodfin is also interested in talking but had just hired a new town manager, thus talks are planned now for May. Fitzsimmons said he had not spoken with the Woodfin Water District as of yet. It should be noted that the Town of Woodfin and the Woodfin Water District are two separate entities. 

More development on the way

Weaverville Town Manager Selena Coffey listed several projects outside the town limits coming up that will be vying for water from the town, including Pleasant Grove Townhomes on Reems Creek (54 units) on ten acres. Another is the affordable housing project on Monticello Road with a168-unit apartment complex across 11 acres. Finally in the valley below, Northridge Commons is a 38 acre residential development. Northbridge Commons could be supplied by either Weaverville Water or the Woodfin Water District. These projects haven’t yet accounted for the Ollie Weaver Road development which was mentioned later on in the meeting. Currently this project has been turned down for their annexation and water request for an additional 200-unit complex. Coffey said the Pleasant Grove request would come in the near future.

Councilwoman Catherine Cordell said she would not like to see any more water requests until the town had a plan to move forward on the water treatment plant. She also was concerned about 200,000 plus gallons commitment to Mars Hill and, now possibly, the same for Marshall. 

Coffey addressed the concern saying, “So its (Mars Hill) not a commitment, it has expired. It is a commitment in that we have remained committed, but the agreement with the town in Mars Hill has expired.” She added Mars Hill is interested in a recommitment, but Coffey would not recommend that it be a free commitment.  

Fitzsimmons said the line to Mars Hill was for emergencies, but what if Weaverville had the emergency? Could water be brought from Mars Hill?

Trent Duncan, Water Treatment Plant Manager, clarified that it was a one-way line to Mars Hill. Dale Pennell, Public Works Director, agreed that the pumps were not there to reverse the flow toward Weaverville.

After some dialogue on one future development, Coffey said these developments underscore the relevance of making decisions regarding the expansion of the water treatment plant or developing regulations that curb additional building in town. “That’s the bottom line.”

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