Resolution will be passed on to N.C. legislature.
The Town of Franklin has joined municipalities and individuals from across the state who are speaking out against a potential state takeover of local water systems. At its first meeting of the new year, the Board of Aldermen unanimously voted to pass a resolution voicing Franklin’s opposition to legislation that would set the precedent for the state to forcefully take control of local water systems.
The resolution is the result of legislation introduced in the long session in 2011 by a state committee chaired by Buncombe County Rep. Tim Moffitt which mandated that the local water system, managed by the city of Asheville, be transferred to the Metropolitan Sewerage District (MSD). MSD currently manages the sewer system for Asheville, and for much of the surrounding areas including portions of Buncombe and Henderson counties.
While Franklin's Town Board noted that it was highly unlikely that any state department would take action to seize Franklin's water system, they wanted to join other municipalities throughout the state pushing for a resolution in the attempt to prevent a precedent from being set with the city of Asheville.
“I believe that this will set a precedent allowing the state to take whatever they want from municipalities in the future,” said Alderman Verlin Curtis. “For that reason, I will make a motion that we adopt this resolution.”
Scott seconded Curtis' motion, and the motion carried unanimously.
With North Carolina's General Assembly anticipated to take the unprecedented step of seizing a municipality-run water system from a city during the 2013 long session, petitions have been formed by individuals and outlying cities who have banded together to prevent the legislation from happening. Although the city of Asheville has owned and operated the water system for more than 100 years, Moffitt's push to transfer power to the MSD would force Asheville to turn over not only its water distribution system, but control of its pristine 20,000 acre watershed, with arguably no compensation at all.
While Moffitt chairs the Metropolitan Sewer/Water System Committee, other members include Rep. William Brawley, Chuck McGrady, Wiliam Brisson, and Tom Murry. Franklin's resolution was drafted with the intention of joining the North Carolina League of Municipalities (NCLM), which has been fighting against the seizure since its inception.
The NCLM's Core Municipal Principles are designed to protect cities from takeovers currently being disputed by the state. “In order to serve growing urban populations with water, sewer ... and other services, municipalities need the autonomy to make appropriate management, human resources, financial, and operational decisions. ... Municipalities must be free to determine appropriate rates and service areas, and free to determine when it is appropriate to enter into regional or multi-jurisdictional arrangement.”
Because of their Core Municipal Principles, the NCLM believes that the proposed regionalism of Asheville's water system “runs counter to the principle of cities being left to determine how to manage their own enterprises. Any mandated merger clouds the respective roles of local government and the General Assembly; sets a bad precedent for the future of all cities owning and operating any municipal water or sewer services; undermines the confidence of municipalities to make substantial and needed investments in their systems; and calls into questions the authority of the state legislature to arbitrarily transfer the assets of one unit of local government to another.”
Franklin's resolution focuses on the town's intent to retain local control of locally owned assets and states, “The Town of Franklin is opposed to legislation that forces the transfer of any City's municipal water system to another entity. The Town of Franklin is convinced that local solution arrived at by an open, collaborative process is preferable to a legislative directed disposition of local government assets. The Town of Franklin is opposed to the forced taking of any local government infrastructure because such taking sets a dangerous precedent that will have a chilling effect on any local government investing in needed infrastructure in the future, thereby endangering business opportunities and economic stability in the State and resulting in job losses for our citizens here and across the state.”
The resolution opposing the proposed legislation was signed by Mayor Joe Collins and Town Clerk Janet Anderson, and will be passed on to the state.