By Meghan Christian
At an emergency meeting Friday, Oct. 27, the Flint City Council voted for a 30-day extension of the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) contract from Nov. 1 to Nov. 30. The council, defying an order imposed by United States District Court Judge David Lawson that they come up with a long-term water source decision by Oct. 23, contended they need more time and information.
According to a sternly-worded statement by Lawson provided by the City of Flint’s attorney on the matter, Charles Boike, the delay by the City Council could already have had an irreversible impact on the City’s ability to secure a water source as certain deals that the City had available to them have expired, including the contract with GLWA.
“The City Council’s inaction has resulted in losing a favorable contract with the Great Lakes Water Authority… That deal is off the table, and it is unclear whether all or part of it can be revived,” Lawson wrote in his judgment and opinion in the City’s case with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).
Not only could this delay affect the City’s ability to secure a water source, the judge wrote, but it also could have harmful implications for Flint residents. According to Lawson, “The facts laid out by the MDEQ protend dire consequences for Flint residents if its government does not act – and soon – to address their long-term water needs.”
The deal, one supported by Mayor Karen Weaver and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, would be a 30-year contract for water, which council members have contended would give the city less negotiating muscle and flexibility over water rates and supply.
At the beginning of the Oct. 27 meeting, Arthur Woodson, Flint resident and candidate for mayor, voiced frustration with City Council’s delay in negotiating a plan he said Flint residents could support.
“You are in negotiation, you’re supposed to get a resolution,” Woodson said. “The only winners in that 30-year deal is Weaver, and the County. Flint residents’ getting ready to get screwed,” he added.
Residents were not the only ones to speak out. Councilman Eric Mays, often a minority voice on the council, also criticized his colleagues’ delay on a decision by the Oct. 23 deadline, citing”failed leadership.” But he spoke in support of the resolution to extend the GLWA contract for 30 days.
“The record would show they went to voting while I was still trying to talk,” Mays said. “So here we sit, Mr. Kincaid, Mr. Nelson; once again on the council side – the majority of them – failed leadership. So I will be voting to support this resolution for a 30-day extension.”
Mays apparently was referring to the rest of the council voting on the contract extension while he was still talking and Council President Kerry Nelson unsuccessfully attempted to silence him. In the meantime, the often-volatile Mays had gotten into a verbal back-and-forth with two audience members shouting at him to “shut up.” Nonetheless, Mays joined the rest of the council in voting for the extension, and Nelson adjourned the meeting abruptly thereafter.
While the City Council came to an agreement on the 30-day extension, it istill is unclear if it will be accepted by GLWA or by Judge Lawson, and the future of Flint’s water remains murky.
EVM Managing Editor Meghan Christian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.