Weaverville – At the August meeting of the Weaverville Town Council, members of the board heard a preliminary action plan from Town Manager Selena Coffey. The plan is based on seven steps the council voted on at its June meeting and includes some timelines and costs that will be associated with the plan.
According to details in the council’s agenda packet, the plan’s first step is to “implement the water supply system resiliency improvements as soon as possible.” This step will occur by”…determining cost estimates; attempting to secure grant and/or loan financing for the improvements; developing a financing plan; and proceeding with all necessary engineering, permitting, and bidding; and all other tasks essential to have these needed improvements under contract as soon as practicable.
This step started last month when staff appealed a decision by the state to deny its request for grant money and re-applied for a grant in Fall 2022 to pay for costs associated with this part of the plan.
This step also includes amending the contract with Withers-Ravenel (W-R) for final design and permitting, with a draft of the contract expected for the September council meeting. Beginning design and permitting are to follow in October, with implementing improvements in the resiliency plan coming in February of 2023, which is expected to cost nearly $1.3 million.
Step two of the plan is to develop “a more conservation-minded water rate structure” (i.e., a higher cost for more water used). Town staff will create “rate structures or methods that encourage water conservation in the water rate study that is to be conducted during FY2022-2023 with recommendations and implementation” no later than FY2023-2024.
The contract for the development of the water rate study with W-R should be presented at the September meeting of the council, with the results of the survey coming in the spring of next year and”…approval of the water rate structure expected in June 2023 and implementation of the water rate structure by July of 2023. No costs have been assigned to this part of the plan.
Step three of the plan is to “apply for federal/state grant funds in conjunction with the Town of Marshall to aid in the expansion of the town’s water treatment plant and a more regional approach to public water.” The only timeline here is to apply for grants during the fall 2022 grant cycle. No costs have been assigned to this part of the plan.
Step four is to “retrofit the water line connection to Mars Hill to provide Weaverville with emergency water and negotiate an emergency water supply for both towns.” The “town staff is directed to implement the needed improvements to allow the Mars Hill/Weaverville water line to be reversible in order to flow water from Mars Hill to Weaverville in the event of an emergency and to begin staff-level negotiations for a new intergovernmental agreement with Mars Hill regarding the purchase of emergency water.”
The town is requesting a “cost estimate for bi-directional water project with town council approval to proceed with the expected project at this month’s meeting and design and permitting in October. No costs have been assigned to this part of the plan.
Step five is to “connect the town’s water system to the Woodfin Water District (which has no connection to the Town of Woodfin) and negotiate a supplemental and emergency water supply from Woodfin.” No timeline or costs have been assigned to this part of the plan.
Step six of the plan calls for “reconfiguring the town’s water system connection with the Asheville water system and negotiating a supplemental and emergency water supply from Asheville.” According to the plan, “formal discussions with Asheville regarding technical requirements for interconnection are happening this month, with “formal discussions with Asheville regarding the cost of water for purchase by Weaverville coming next. A staff report to the council regarding “interconnection costs and improvements” is planned for the November meeting of the council.
The final step, and the most expensive and, for some, most controversial, is to proceed with the water treatment plant expansion project with the timing to be determined in the near future. The expansion would double the treatment plant’s capacity from 1.5 million gallons per day to three million per day. The last price tag for the project was pegged at about $13 million. No timeline or costs have been assigned to this part of the plan.
Opposition to the water treatment plant expansion
The Tribune asked James Heinl of the SaveIvyRiver group what he thought about the town’s strategies for the future water system plans. The SaveIvyRiver sprang up in opposition to taking more water from the Ivy river.
Heinl sent the newspaper the group’s official statement, which only addressed the water treatment expansion, saying, “Save Ivy River disagrees with the decision of Weaverville’s mayor and town council to approve the expansion of the water treatment plant. We plan to make the following requests to be performed by Weaverville prior to any expansion activity:
(1) Install a flow gauge at the pump house and actively monitor real time flow data.
(2) Agree to a minimum flow requirement of 8.2 million gallons per day and agree that no withdrawals will be allowed when river levels fall below this threshold.
(3) Attain a preliminary engineering report by Withers Ravenel to assess the feasibility of a secondary water facility at 25/70 and the Ivy River intersection.
(4) Validate that Asheville would not provide a contract agreement for 1.5 million gallons per day in perpetuity to the town.
Should the town refuse to agree to these requests prior to proceeding with the expansion, Save Ivy River will file a lawsuit against the town.