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She and many others living outside Asheville fear the city will eventually shake off the state restrictions and charge them higher rates, said Burhoe-Jones.

“The system is broken for those of us looking toward the future,” she said. “We don’t know what the heck our water rates are going to be.”

In a strange twist, officials with Buncombe County government, which had fought with Asheville over the system for decades, spoke out in support of the city.

“Five years ago, I was totally in favor of an independent authority,” said county Board of Commissioners Chairman David Gantt.

That was because the system had been falling apart while Asheville and Buncombe County governments took revenues from the system, Gantt said.

Since then, the city has arranged for more than $40 million in repairs paid for by bonds and in other ways backed by water customers.

“I believe that the city’s good faith efforts and actions to improve the aging system should be recognized,” he said.

But the hearing also highlighted old animosities between Henderson County officials and Asheville over the construction of the city’s water treatment plant in the county’s northern territories on the Mills River.

Henderson Commissioner Michael Edney said the city didn’t follow through on its part of the deal, which included the creation of a true regional water authority. City officials also refused to extend water lines to a business near the plant until Henderson officials took legal action.

“To this day I continue to feel the cold steel from the knives stuck in our backs,” Edney said.

“We went out on that limb for Asheville, and as soon as they got what they wanted, they didn’t stop at cutting the limb off — they cut down the entire tree.”

Mills River Mayor Roger Snyder, meanwhile, said his lightly populated town, which is near the source of one of city’s water supplies, is caught in the middle.

“We have Asheville on one side and Henderson County and Buncombe County on the other side,” he said.

Snyder said his residents would like to be guaranteed water rates the same as Asheville residents and have land restrictions loosened that are meant to protect the water supply but also are too great a barrier to construction and other development.