Water Plant Expansion Gets Green Light - TribPapers

Water Plant Expansion Gets Green Light

A slide of the Weaverville Water Treatment Plant used in a slide presentation. Image courtesy of Town of Weaverville.

Weaverville – After much data and discussion over the years, the Town of Weaverville finally voted to move forward on a $13 million-plus water treatment plant expansion at their February 28th monthly meeting. However, the decision did not go forward with the council’s full support, as it was split with two councilmen, Andrew Nagle and Vice Mayor Jeff McKenna, voting against the plan.

After looking at a projection chart that showed that with moderate development, the town would reach 80% capacity by 2025 and 90% shortly after 2026, the council once again started debating the expansion of the water treatment plant.

McKenna said, “The way I’m kind of looking at it after all the time we put in after the last year or so, one thing I know now that I didn’t know a year ago, at least for me, is that it makes sense at some point to expand that facility and that we could responsibly do it. The real question for me is not if, but when,” and the when could be when we hit that 80% threshold. Like you show on your chart, it could be three years from now. It could be 13 years from now; we really don’t know.” He pointed out that since the town has no outside funding, taking on the project would be “all loan-based and all on us… I would struggle to say, “Yeah, we ought to move a head given that, because that would be all on the water users.”

He did say the town should not budget for the start of the project with the next budget cycle, but that staff should continue to look for outside funding for the expansion and revisit the issue next year.

“Yeah, I think that’s just too far out,” responded Councilwoman Cathrine Cordell. She pointed out that the state has announced $3 billion in surplus money. She said she had spoken to someone who asked her to send over the project, but she had not because she wanted to talk with the council first. “I think that authorizing [an] expansion order provides specific direction. I would love for us to push this to North Carolina now for the surplus money.”
“I think we’re saying the same thing. I’m sorry if I misspoke. I wasn’t suggesting we set out and don’t look for anything for a year,” explained McKenna. “We go look for funding but don’t build it into our project until such time as that gets clarified.”

“What did we just get turned down for?” asked Nagle. The water system resilience project is called Coffee. He then addressed Cordell, saying, “There may be 35 million dollars available, but they said no.”

Mayor Patrick Fitzsimmons clarified that the denial was from the Department of Water Quality and the millions Cordell was talking about were from “a legislative allocation, which is up to 15 million dollars.”

“And they’re going to say yes?” asked Nagle. “They might,” said Fitzsimmons. “And they might not,” shot back Nagle. “They might not,” agreed the mayor. “Cause they’re Republicans. They’re going to say no. We’re not going to let them get it,” responded Nagle. “That’s a possibility, sir,” countered Fitzsimmons.

Cordell and Fitzsimmons suggested that since Nagle was also a Republican, he should do the asking. “From day one, I said we don’t need the water,” retorted Nagle. “We do need the water,” replied Cordell. “Math. Do the math,” ended Nagle.

Fitzsimmons called for some type of motion; “otherwise, he would pursue the funding possibilities… We’re going to have to come to some conclusion here, folks.”

Nagle continued to argue that the timing wasn’t right. “Whatever we decide, generations will be affected,” Cordell asked what the chart said to Nagle. Nagle said the data can say anything you want it to, but “I’ve already made up my mind.” He went on to say, “You say you can’t stop development? Yeah, you can. This council has chosen not to slow it down. We’re accelerating at warp speed, and that’s our choice.”

“Using the availability of water as a brake for development is foolhardy. It’s not going to stop development as much as you might think…we need to make this decision based on the data we have…we can pretend that not providing water is going to stop development,” declared Fitzsimmons.

After further discussion, McKenna also pushed for a waiting period to see where the town might get grants. “We’ve got a solid plan in place, and we know we’re going to need it someday. Now let’s go get some partner funding to help offset That should be the big priority rather than pushing the go button.”
Councilman Doug Jackson argued the price tag for the expansion was going to continue to rise and said the town needed to do it independently of outside funding. 

Nagle said, “Let’s put our money where our mouth is and vote on the darn thing.” After some more discussion, Cordell made the motion to move forward with the expansion while looking for funding for the next six months and directing staff to gather loan interest rates. The motion passed 5-2, with Nagle and McKenna voting against it.

Contributor’s note: See “Letter to the Editor” on page ??