Michael Bobbitt: Notes From The Peanut Gallery (Henderson City Council Meeting January 28th, 2013)

Annual Financial Audit Report

Curtis Averette, a partner with William L. Stark and Company, presented the annual financial audit report stating the report is an unqualified opinion.  An unqualified opinion is better than a qualified opinion because a qualified opinion means there is something the auditor needs to explain such as when accounts do not balance.  Mr. Averette explained the audit disclosed weak controls governing water bill payments.  (I think he said for six years).  The weakness resulted in a $400,000 right off of unpaid water bills.  The devil is always in an audit reports and the two inch thick audit report was not made available to HiH.  

Forced Taking of Municipal Water Systems

What is the forced taking of municipal water systems?  Who is forcing the taking of a water system?  The inflammatory terms of ‘forced taking’ should have awakened at least one of the City Council members who might have asked at least one question.  Mr. Griffin stated that last year the State legislature’s Legislative Research Commission recommended the that the City of Asheville be forced to transfer it’s Municipal water system to a Metropolitan Sewer District.  It took a while to find the Legislative Research Commission’s Metropolitan Sewerage/Water System Committee report dated April 12, 2012, and submitted May 14, 2012.  (here is the link to the PDF: http://www.ncleg.net/documentsites/committees/lrc/2012%20Committee%20Reports%20to%20LRC/Metropolitan%20Sewerage-Water%20System%20Committee.pdf)  

Recommendation 2 on page 27 states: “After careful consideration of the information presented, the Committee recommends merging the Public Utility Water System with the Metropolitan Sewerage District of Buncombe County.”  The findings in the report for issue 2 cover more than eighty years of water issues for Asheville.  To say the legislature is forcing Asheville to transfer it’s water system is a little hyperbole and hyperbole is something readers on HiH are very familiar.  Without asking one question the Henderson City Council approved Mr. Griffin’s resolution opposing legislation that provides for the forced taking of municipal water systems. 

Regular Work Session

This City Council meeting had two parts.  The first part is the regular meeting the second part the work session.  The regular session covered the audit, the resolution supporting Asheville, and last week’s meeting in Flint Hill.  The work session covered new water meters, Kerr Lake level, and new light poles for downtown.  The City is planning to replace some 20 year old water meters with ‘state of the art’ water meters.  The new water meters are radio read meaning someone drives “the reader” by the meter and “reads” a radio signal to determine the gallons used since the last reading.  One can only wonder if the Vance County Wide Water Project is this enlightened; I digress.  The money for these meters was approved back in September 2012.  It is a 20 year no interest loan from the State.  Mr. Frazier said that overtime the water meter get slow, allowing the customer to use 2% – 3% more water than the meter reads.  Warning if you get a new meter the reading is true and accurate which might explain why your bill is 2% – 3% higher. 

Then Mr. Frazier delighted the Council with news the lake is up everyone breathed a collective sigh.  According to the National Weather service we are in a long term drought with little indication of a return to the old normal.  Planning for water conservation should be a major KSO 5 Goal – Provide Reliable, Dependable and Environmentally Compliant Infrastructure Systems. 

Sixty-two new taller light poles are coming soon to our downtown.  With the new poles might come new Christmas decorations because the City will not be permitted plug the current decoration into the new poles without a meter.  By the way, next week the City will removed last year’s Christmas decoration still hanging on the light poles.  When asked why the decorations were still up, Mr. Griffin replied we are using an outside contractor

City Manager

Apparently there is some misgivings among some city employees and the City Manager, so much so that it surfaced during the council meeting.  Ms. Peace-Jenkins, Ms. Coffey, and Mr. Rainey all asked why employees were calling them and other Council members about the inclement weather policy instead of Mr. Griffin.  Ms. Peace-Jenkins specifically asked if the reason was that employees felt uncomfortable going to the administrator so they called the Council members for guidance with the policy.  Mr. Griffin partially answered their question saying a vast number of city employees live outside the city, where we have such good street cleaning, they asked to leave early and they did.  He added there were customers at city offices up until 4:45 pm on last Friday.