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NC Supreme Court tackles the Asheville water system debate

NC Supreme Court tackles the Asheville water system debate (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

MORGANTON, N.C. -- The North Carolina Supreme Court has taken up the case of Asheville's water system after a long legal battle.

Their decision will either grant control of the water system to the Metropolitan Sewerage District or leave it in the hands of the city of Asheville.

Oral arguments wrapped up just after 10 a.m.

Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer was present, along with former state representative Tim Moffitt. Moffitt sponsored the bill, also called The Water Act of 2013.

Manheimer says citizens have paid to build the utility and the loss would be huge. It has been maintained by the city for more than a century.

The move offers Asheville zero compensation, though Moffitt argued the regional authority would better serve the system's 125,000 customers.

One of Tuesday's main arguments included what the transfer would mean for the health and sanitation of the water.

It also means Asheville's water system would be consolidated with Henderson County's.

"That operator will have the power to make innumerable decisions that can affect the public health, including how the water is treated, how the water is tested, what the source of the water will be," Matt Sawchak, Asheville's attorney said.

Another point brought up during the hearing was the financial implications of shifting control of Asheville's water system.

"Not one single thing is going to happen to what the city refers to as the collateral here, not one thing," Faison Hicks said. Hicks is the special deputy attorney general representing the state.

A decision in the case is expected several months from now, but this is the final step in the process.

The outcome could set a new legal precedent on how much authority state lawmakers have over local government.

The city of Wilson, the Brunswick Regional Water Authority, the International Municipal Lawyers Association and the state League of Municipalities have all filed briefs in the case.

The court is scheduled to hear two other cases while in Burke County.

Related Links
Asheville water battle goes before NC Supreme Court on Tuesday
NC Supreme Court to Hear Asheville Water Lawsuit
NC Court of Appeals To Not Reconsider Asheville Water Ruling

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