Asheville Council unanimously moves forward with independent review committee
Water Department operations will be reevaluated based on the recommendations from the independent review committee. Around mid-May, the committee will need to provide a written report and presentation to city council on infrastructure improvements, operational changes, and possible revisions to the Water Capital Improvement program.
GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - In a unanimous vote Asheville city council approved a resolution to establish an independent review committee to dissect the cause of the city’s recent water outage, infrastructure needs and response efforts. It was a meeting that addressed a lot, from political water wars to infrastructure investments. It also had it’s fare share of public comments even on the effectiveness of an independent review committee.
Bill Robinson is still fired up about losing water for a week.
“Either water comes out of the tap or it doesn’t, and their job is to keep water coming out of the tap,” Robinson said. “I live in a HUD subsidized elderly and disabled building and I got to really see the human suffering up close among my friends and neighbors.”
He brought water to the very elderly and disabled, and says things could have been worse.
“You know dehydration is the leading cause of emergency room and ambulance rides and death,” he said. Even when they have running water they forget to drink it.”
And Robinson joined a dozen others who brought their comments to the Asheville city council on Tuesday.
“This is a betrayal of public trust,” he said.
In the first formal meeting since the completion of a water restoration effort Jan. 4, residents learned of a $72.8 million five-year capital improvement plan, and also the historical state of the city’s water system.
“It is fair to say that for a number of years the system was not properly maintenanced and so we’re playing a lot of catch-up, but the good news is for the last several years we have been doing a lot of catchup and making significant investments,” said Esther E. Manheimer, City of Asheville mayor.
Council also reviewed what disrupted 38,000 customers and expressed the need for better internal and external communication plans in emergencies. Additionally, a nine person independent review committee was also approved comprised of citizens and experts. Around mid-May, the committee will need to provide a written report and presentation to city council on infrastructure improvements, operational changes, and possible revisions to the Water Capital Improvement program.
But there’s still other concerns from the public to include how effective will the committee be, and can the Water Resource Department say another incident like the one seen over Christmas won’t happen again.
“I want to give confidence to our community that that’s going to be the case,” said Ben Woody, City of Asheville assistant manager. “Now things happen, there’s always unpredictable events, but I feel very confidence that our staff is making preparations that the likelihood of this happening again is almost zero.”
Water Department operations will also be reevaluated based on the recommendations from the independent review committee.
Copyright 2023 WHNS. All rights reserved.