Today’s round of questions, my smart-aleck replies and the real answers:
Question: I have been observing commercial tanker trucks filling up at a city of Asheville water stand at the corner of Broadway and Cauble Street. They seem to have unlimited access to this commercial water spigot and are making repeated visits daily. These trucks must hold thousands of gallons each trip. Does anyone know who is getting this water and how many gallons they are getting total? Are these companies paying the same rate for water as the citizens of Asheville are paying, or are they getting a reduced rate for bulk purchases? Who is monitoring these sales for the city and how much of the city’s water capacity is going out to private buyers?
My answer: I don’t want to disclose how much time I spent driving around the Broadway/Cauble Street area looking for a city “water stand,” but let’s just say it was too much. Apparently, this is also known as a fire hydrant. Sometimes journalism isn’t real pretty.
Real answer: In the “you learn something new every day” department, I have learned something new.
“The Water Department has meters that we rent out to anyone that requests one,” city of Asheville spokesperson Kim Miller said via email, relating information from the Water Resources Department. “This allows a person or company to connect to a fire hydrant and pull water off of it to fill a tanker truck or swimming pool.”
The city requires the customer to send the water billing department a picture of the meter reading every month. The customer is then billed for any water that went through the meter, which has to be hooked up each time to get water.
“Some meters are rented for very short periods and others are rented on a long-term basis, but all water is billed,” Miller said. “There is usually a waiting list for these meters, as there is a limited number, less than 100.”
The water department has a Hydrant Meter Application Form available on its website, and it covers all the fees and other details.
Customers are charged the single-family residential rate of $4.77 per ccf, or centum cubic feet. For the non-water engineers out there, one ccf equals 748 gallons. Miller noted the rate will increase as of Sept. 1 to $5.21/ccf.
The issue of the city’s water capacity comes up frequently, especially with all the new apartments and breweries we have in the area, and the big water outage over the holiday season. But the water department consistently has said it has plenty of capacity to meet demand.
The water department has a total capacity of 43.5 million gallons per day.
“July and August are usually our highest production months due to warmer weather,” Miller said.
In July, the average production was 23.67 million gallons per day. The percentage of the system’s capacity used for the month was 54.4 percent.
Miller also provided these stats:
- In 2022 there were 55,278 metered connections for residential customers, the biggest bloc of water users at 8.5 million gallons per day.
- Commercial customers, with 4,431 metered connections, averaged 4.4 million gallons per day, according to the department’s 2022 review.
“Every five to 10 years the city completes a master plan which looks at potential population increase and system capacity,” Miller said.
As Asheville Watchdog has reported previously, the Water Resources Department delivers water to 156,000 people daily in Buncombe and northern Henderson County. The department relies on two reservoirs with on-site water plants in northeast and southeast Buncombe County, and another plant on Mills River in northern Henderson County.
Question: November is approaching and the bonds issued seven years ago have a deadline to be awarded. I live in Haw Creek and it appears the city of Asheville is very far behind in being able to get this (sidewalk project) done in time. I believe there are other similar issues with other projects under this bond. An update and news on anything other than downtown issues would be appreciated — not all of us who pay city taxes are involved in City Center problems when ours are similarly not addressed.
My answer: Man, I tell you, you write just one 312-part series on the downtown’s problems, and people get all snarky about it.
Real answer: Miller checked with the city’s Capital Projects Department on this one. To date, Miller said, the city has completed 22 of the 2016 bond-funded projects. Another six projects are in the construction phase.
Miller noted that readers can check projects’ status on the city’s Capital Projects dashboard. The dashboard shows the bond projects’ total budget is $85.6 million, and so far the city has spent $60.9 million, with another $6.8 million under contract.
“Completed projects include community assets such as ADA-compliant sidewalks in various neighborhoods, improvements to community centers, bus shelters, general road improvements, parks and playgrounds, and more,” Miller said.
On average, the city has spent just under $10 million a year.
“Some projects do remain outstanding,” Miller said, noting they’re the projects listed on the dashboard as being in the design phase. “City staff plan to award these projects for construction by the end of the year. While every effort is made to meet the projected timeline associated with the project bids, these milestone dates provide a framework and are not to be viewed as committed dates.”
These projects remain (this includes reasons for delay):
- New Haw Creek — Bid September/October of 2023.
- Johnston Boulevard — Bid September/October of 2023.
- Swannanoa River Greenway — Bids Aug. 17.
- Greenway connectors — Downtown (McDowell to Short Coxe). October 2023.
- Patton Avenue sidewalk — Bid twice. No bids. Rebid in fall 2023.
- Airport Road sidewalk — Low bidder turnout and high bid pricing. Rebid in fall 2023.
Regarding the New Haw Creek sidewalk, Miller noted the website shows the plan is to add just under a mile of sidewalk on New Haw Creek Road, from Beverly Road to Bell Road. The design and final city and NCDOT reviews are complete, and the consultant is finalizing construction bidding documents, according to the city site.
“Right-of-Way acquisition has begun and is expected to be completed in summer 2023 and construction will immediately follow,” the website states.
Asheville Watchdog is a nonprofit news team producing stories that matter to Asheville and Buncombe County. Got a question? Send it to John Boyle at email@example.com or 828-337-0941. To show your support for this vital public service go to avlwatchdog.org/donate.