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LIGHTNING EDITORIAL: Should city cede water system to county?

When Henderson County urged the city of Hendersonville to act quickly to supply city water to homeowners in Dana, where tainted wells had been discovered, the city immediately said yes.

When the county urged the city to run water lines to Mills River so it could land the Tri-Hishtil greenhouse operation, the city said yes. Run water and sewer lines for the new Garrison Industrial Park? Subsidize the sale of city-owned Berkeley Park land for a prospective manufacturing plant? Hold rural fire & rescue districts harmless on loss of taxes when the city annexes land? Give the county authority over whether water and sewer lines are extended outside the city limits? Equalize outside and inside water rates? Join the county in appropriating $800,000 to fund a water line to the Apple Ridge affordable housing development?
Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes and yes.
In fact there is little that the city has not agreed to do when the Board of Commissioners has asked. The only demand we can think of that commissioners have made — ad nauseum, for years — is that the Hendersonville City Council drop its policy of requiring that outside-city applicants requesting sewer service agree to be annexed. The new city utility customers then get inside-city rates in exchange for reliable sewer service and a quality water supply — along with fire and police protection and other city services.
This is the climate we’re in as commissioners push to take control of the city water-sewer system via a Trojan horse known as the Joint Water & Sewer Commission. County commissioners were able to cajole the City Council into adopting a resolution calling for joint governance of the city utility system. One “whereas” stated flatly that “it is agreed that the water and sewer system in the county should be jointly managed.” City Council member Jerry Smith said he for one did not agree. “There's not been enough facts presented to me that it should be jointly managed because I don't think it's being mismanaged,” he said.
Nor has Smith seen a scintilla of evidence that businesses, the cities served by the city water and sewer system, the Partnership for Economic Development or anyone else outside the Historic Courthouse is clamoring for a county takeover of the city utility system.
“It's the county's problem that we own an asset that they want to own — that's my perception,” Smith said.
And how much, exactly, have Henderson County’s honorables offered to pay for their “joint governance” of a system valued at close to $300 million? That would be this number: $0.00.
Maybe we’re missing the good reasons, equity and benefit to the city in this effort to blow up the existing governance of a system currently operated under competent and forward-thinking management. The only one we can think of is that the city and its professional staff are tired of being bullied and mocked over water and sewer decisions. It’s hard to believe that a city that has invested in a quality water system since 1888 would think that’s reason enough to cede it to the county.