Tuesday, April 15, 2014
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Opinion

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LIGHTNING EDITORIAL: The water smells funny

A bad smell rose from the Hendersonville City Council's action last week to pull a resolution on the Asheville-Buncombe water war and it wasn't sewage.

The council was perfectly in its rights to pass a resolution opposing the heavy-handed effort by the state Legislature to appropriate the Asheville water system and give it to the Municipal Sewer District. Yet for reasons veiled in euphemism, the mayor abruptly pulled the resolution.
The resolution said that "the forced taking of any local government infrastructure sets a dangerous precedent" that "will have a chilling effect on any local government investing in needed infrastructure in the future ..." Sounds on target to us.
Imagine the blood-curdling screams that would rise up from Hendersonville if the Legislature decided to forcibly take the Hendersonville city water system and give it to a regional authority. Maybe we won't have to wait too long to find out.
There is a rising tide of mischief when it comes to water, who has it and who wants it. A legislative report cites inefficiencies in Asheville's water system as a reason for a regional takeover. That does not hold water over here, excuse the expression.
"I guess I'm not sure what the problem is that it's trying to solve," Mayor Barbara Volk said. "I haven't heard of any business or industry or developments that have not been able to get water. I don't understand why there's a big rush on to get a regional authority."
It's no surprise that the first thing new Gov. Pat McCrory on his first trip to Asheville as governor was the outcry from Asheville officials over the forced takeover.
The chilling effect, it seems to us, is already upon us.
City Council tossed aside a resolution that did nothing more than stand up for the city water system ratepayers' right to the equity they have built in a well-run system. Many of those ratepayers, the legislators and Henderson County commissioners should recognize, are county residents outside Hendersonville.
The ability to operate a water system — provide water to new industry, business or housing, to say where lines go and where they don't — is one of the most powerful functions of local government. It works here in a spirit of cooperation. If the city receives a request for a water line outside the city, it seeks the county's blessing for the extension. That doesn't sound like something that needs tinkering with. It doesn't sound like a situation that calls for a Big Government takeover.
We thought the new Republican majority in Raleigh was supposed to be more sensitive to the idea that local government, which is closest to the people, ought to guide local decisions.