Water Still Top of Mind for Town - TribPapers

Water Still Top of Mind for Town

Photo by Imani.

Weaverville – Last month, the Weaverville Town Council, during their workshop meeting, reviewed their action plan pertaining to their water system and took further action. Weaverville Town Manager Selena Coffey reviewed where they are in each of the seven steps of the action plan.

Those steps include the following:

1. Implement the water supply system resilience improvements as soon as possible, including 

2. Develop a more conservation-minded water rate structure.

3. Apply for federal or state grant funds in conjunction with the Town of Marshall in order to aid in the expansion of the Town’s Water Treatment Plant and a more regional approach to public water.

4. Establish a water line connection to Mars Hill in order to provide Weaverville with emergency water and negotiate an emergency water supply for both towns.

5. Connect the Town’s water system to the Woodfin Water District and negotiate a supplemental and emergency water supply from Woodfin.

6. Reconfigure the Town’s water system connection with the Asheville water system and negotiate a supplemental and emergency water supply from Asheville

7. Updates to the points included a new application for state funding to improve the current water system infrastructure, which the town should hear back by February if it is approved. 

Weaverville Mayor Patrick Fitzsimmons also said they had met with representatives of Madison County, including Mars Hill and Marshall, about coming together and working to secure state funds for the expansion of the Weaverville Water Treatment Plant for the benefit of all parties. 

Weaverville has a permit from the state to take up to four million gallons per day.

Coffey then updated the council, saying that Weaverville Public Works Director Dale Pennell had found that the town already had a bi-directional valve connection with the Town of Mars Hill, which would allow water to follow in both directions. This has led Weaverville to draft a new water agreement with Mars Hill that would allow Weaverville to obtain water from Mars Hill in case of an emergency but not supplemental water. The Mars Hill manager has agreed to the agreement’s content and plans to present it to his board. “So just signing the agreement…cost us nothing because all of the equipment is in place,” she told the council. 

Other sources of water are not there

She then moved on to the subject of buying water from the city of Asheville. “The short answer is yes, we can,” Coffey said, but went on to say it would cost between $14 and $17 million, explaining that while there was a connection between the two systems, it was inoperable.

Asheville has said they will not make it operable without making improvements. The improvements would be a four to five-year “… project, which will include engineering, DEQ permitting, land and/or easement acquisition, DOT encroachment agreements, bidding, and construction.” This does not count the annual water cost of about a million dollars, which translates into 18 cents in tax revenue.

What the town thought was an emergency source of water from the City of Asheville is not. “That scares me,” said Coffey. She also informed the board that the millions in new lines for water from Asheville would be done not in Weaverville but in Woodfin or unincorporated areas and would become the property of the Asheville water system, which anyone could hook up to with Asheville’s permission.

She then went on to talk about the Woodfin Water District, with which the town’s system had a connection about 20 years ago but has since been disconnected. “That line is not operable, and we have no agreement with Woodfin,” she explained. Woodfin currently has an agreement with Asheville for one million gallons per day and is using half of that amount.

Coffey said for about $600,000 in upgrades, the Weaverville system could be connected to Woodfin to furnish about 250,000 gallons per day and, for about $750,000, could supply half a million gallons a day. However, the Woodfin Water Board would have to approve such an agreement.

Complicating the matter is the fact that Woodfin’s agreement with Asheville ends in 2029, and more immediately, Woodfin recently switched water directors. The new director and water board have not been engaged in talks with Weaverville about any such agreement.

Actions taken at the meeting

Fitzsimmons asked Coffey to review the Ivy River Reliable Yield Study Proposal. Coffey said several people and groups have questioned if the Ivy River, the current source of Weaverville’s water treatment plant’s water supply, could produce three million gallons per day if the plant’s capacity was doubled. They have contacted the engineering firm CDM/Smith to conduct a study.The cost would be about $30,000 for the study, which could be done in five weeks. Coffey asked the council to approve the expense.  Councilman Doug Jackson made the motion for the study and the budget amendment to pay for it. The motion passed with all members present voting for it.

Vice Mayor Jeff McKenna made the motion, and Councilman John Chase seconded it, to approve an interlocal agreement with Mars Hill for the supply and receipt of emergency supplies.

Councilwoman Catherine Cordell made the motion to proceed with the Woodfin interconnection option, which would supply half a million gallons per day and cost about $750,000, on the assumption that Woodfin would be agreeable to such an arrangement. “We don’t have that kind of time as people are standing in line wanting more water,” explaining the need for the urgency of her motion. After more discussion, the motion was changed to move forward with Woodfin, with details to come later after talks with Woodfin. The motion passed.

McKenna said he didn’t see any reason to proceed with the decision on proceeding with Asheville Interconnection. Chase made the motion, and it was passed. Last, the council discussed the direction of other information needed for the decision on the water treatment plant expansion. After some talk, the board took no further action.