By Kayla Chappell and Jan Worth-Nelson
UPDATE: This story has been edited to reflect that Jody Lundquist, the city’s chief financial officer, resigned May 31.
More than 55 people attended the College Cultural Neighborhood Association’s (CCNA) May meeting, which concentrated on an expanded agreement for park maintenance and development between the City of Flint and the Genesee County Parks and Recreation Commission.
City issues also were a focus of the meeting, presented by Kate Fields, Fourth Ward City Council member. Other points of interest were the College Cultural real estate report and Mott Community College (MCC) millage renewal.
Hamilton Dam coming down
Amy McMillan, director of Genesee County Parks and Recreation, summarized the now five-year agreement with City Council to maintain and operate parks within the city of Flint. The initial two-year agreement included the maintenance and operation of Max Brandon Park, Flint Park Lake, Thread Lake Park, and McKinley Park.
She said the agreement still includes those parks but has now expanded to maintaining trails. A section of the Flint River Trail, which stretches from downtown Flint to Bray and Carpenter roads, will now be maintained by Genesee County Parks as well as sections of the Iron Belle Trail. The Iron Belle Trail begins in Detroit and ends in the Upper Peninsula and will include bike trails, two track trails, and water trails. Water trails are rivers used for recreation, usually part of a developed facility with maps and information along the trail.
Another addition to the agreement is the Riverfront Restoration Project which will include the renovation and restoration of the Hamilton Dam, Riverbank Park, and Chevy Commons in a way that will permit safety.
The Hamilton Dam, “the single most dangerous dam in the entire state of Michigan” according to McMillan, will be removed except for its “super structure” under the water. She explained the river is highly channelized and therefore it would be a safety hazard to remove all the concrete. The in-stream restoration will lower the super structure of the dam and reconstruct it, replacing it with strategically placed rocks and stones to prevent contaminants entering the water. There will also be a series of six drops and pools added to the in-stream structure which will allow fish passage and water hydraulics. The pedestrian bridge will be rebuilt to “better connect both sides of the community,” according to McMillan.
“Riverbank Park will be the focus of event programming downtown,” McMillan claimed. Riverbank Park holds a large part of the project’s budget and will open a variety of recreational opportunities to the city, such as fishing, community events, and will bring major events Downtown.
Chevy Commons, formerly “Chevy in the Hole,” is now being transformed from concrete to grass with a system of trails. McMillan said it is approximately a $35 million project with $18 million of work, mostly from grants, already completed.
City council concerns
Kate Fields, Fourth Ward City Council member, attended the meeting outside of her district and addressed the group, stating that “the decisions City Council makes affects the entire city—it affects all residents so I really consider myself as representing all of you folks too.” The Seventh Ward City Council member, Monica Galloway, was not in attendance.
Fields mentioned former city administrator Natasha Henderson’s lawsuit and expressed concern that the settlement might wipe out the City of Flint’s self-insured fund. Fields said she was “disturbed” to then hear that the local NAACP is filing a class-action lawsuit suing the City of Flint and the State of Michigan on behalf of all residents.
She also voiced concern about what she characterized as the Mayor’s reliance on unpaid counsel by Aonie Gilchreast, husband of Flint NAACP president Frances Gilchreast. She suggested that relationship was a conflict of interest considering the NAACP action. She called the NAACP lawsuit “egregious.”
She said “the good news” was that the city council soon will be getting back its full powers, and said the timing was right for “re-establishing a much tighter control on spending.” [In fact, the state-appointed Receivership Transition Advisory Board voted unanimously at a May 28 special meeting to restore the council’s power.]
CCNA President Mike Keeler said, referring to the Natasha Henderson allegations of diversion of water donations into a Mayor Weaver political action committee that, if they are true, “a lot of people will go to jail.” CCN resident Alex Harris, who ran unsuccessfully for the Seventh Ward city council seat in 2013, called the situation “seamy” and said people at “the top echelons” of city government said things were “on the level of malfeasance.”
Keeler asked if anybody on the city council knows “with all this money that came in with donations, where all that money went.” Fields replied, “No, we do not.” She said she had asked Jody Lundquist, the city finance director, “can you tell me the name of the city account where all the donations have gone?” She said Lundquist replied, “There is no such fund.”
June 4 UPDATE: According to MLive, Lundquist resigned May 31. She was the last of the state-appointed employees in City Hall. (Lundquist).
After the meeting, Keeler said the association’s policy is that it is open to visits by any Genesee County politician. He said Fields had spoken at earlier CCNA meetings. He said he had worked with her often in the past and found her “thorough.”
Her comments were not contested by those in attendance. After Fields’ remarks, Keeler asked former Mayor Dayne Walling, who lives in the CCN, if he had any comments. Walling said, “I think the councilwoman gave you good updates.”
Two CCN residents, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Rector Rev. Dan Scheid and his wife Kate, walked out of the meeting at the end of Fields’ presentation. In a follow-up communication to East Village Magazine, Scheid, a Weaver supporter, wrote,
“I simply was too troubled to stay any longer. First of all, I was mad at myself…I didn’t stand at this meeting to offer one voice, my voice, at the very least to request that we not litigate her alleged shortcomings in a meeting where no one from her administration was present to answer the charges.”
Positive news for property
Local realtor Mark Fisher updated residents on the housing market in the College Cultural neighborhood. Fisher said, “When you look at our numbers, we look really good.” The report shows an increase in home sales, from 37 active homes for sale in January to 23 this May. Not only are more homes being sold but the average price per square foot is up by ten dollars since January, he said. Sales statistics show the average selling price is also up from two months ago—at 92.5% of the asking price.
Fisher claims that water is still an issue but is not interfering with sales. Homes have an average of 76 days on the market, down from 81 in March, with inventory dropping 18% in the last two months.
Millage renewal for Mott Community College
MCC is seeking a voter-approved renewal for the operating millage that will otherwise expire in 2017. Dale Weighill, associate vice president of institutional advancement, issued a call for residents to vote for the millage renewal. The operating millage allows MCC to provide educational, economic, community, and workforce development opportunities and services that will be compromised if the millage is not renewed. The millage benefits the College Cultural community, he said, by offering free access to programs like art exhibits, lectures, and music recitals. He stated that if the millage is not renewed MCC would lack funds for these free programs and the lack of revenue would be disadvantageous for academic programs.
Weighill explained the millage currently generates $5.7 million a year with the cost of the millage being .6410 cents for every $1,000 of taxable value. The election will take place Aug. 2, on the primary election ballot.
The association’s next meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 15, in MCC’s RTC Auditorium.
Staff writer Kayla Chappell can be reached at email@example.com. EVM Editor Jan Worth-Nelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.