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Residents react to water shutoff threat

Originally published: Nov. 21, 2012
Last modified: Nov. 21, 2012

Jesse Campbell

Some West Jefferson residents, in both the downtown and surrounding area, are calling foul over revisions made to an ordinance that allows officials to discontinue water services for delinquent taxpayers. 

Two weeks ago, the aldermen voted 4-1, with Calvin Green casting the dissenting vote, to shut off the water as what they saw as a “tool” in cracking down on real and personal property tax evaders. 

Town Manager Brantley Price confirmed the town's collection rate at around 97 or 98 percent. 

Despite some concerns raised by town maintenance officials over possible sanitation issues, Town Attorney David Paletta said the town has the authority to shut off the water for those who don't pay, and that health department officials can not affect how the town will enforce the ordinance. 

Beth Lovette, health director for Appalachian District Health Department, which oversees the sanitation and building concerns of Ashe and its communities, said Paletta may be right, but more research may have to be invested in the issue.

“I do not think public health concerns would into play unless there was a restaurant or other facility that we are required to inspect that was impacted,” said Lovette. 

Carla West, owner of the Shear Shack, said she uses a well, not town water, but believes “isn't fair for the town to pick on the community that has no other choice, but to use city water.”

During this month's meeting, town officials reassured citizens that the ordinance would only be enforced in a case-by-case manner and it was not implemented to put anyone in dire straits. 

But that doesn't mean locals are not questioning the board's actions.  

Sheila Bare Helms added, “Water should be the last thing you take away. Think about the children and older folks who may live in these homes.”

Helms suggested town officials should “work with them on a budget that will take away the things they really don't have to have. Let them do public service jobs.”

Ashley Miller, of nearby Jefferson, said the town's “taking it too far” by making revisions to ordinance.

“And they're trying to say they have a right to be doing that?”

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