By Meghan Christian
With a stated effort toward transparency, Mayor Karen Weaver held the first of several community forums planned for 2018 on Thursday, Feb. 1 to update residents on the progress of the FAST Start pipe replacement program and to introduce AECOM, the company that has come on as project manager for the work.
“We want you to share this information with others. Share this with your neighbors and your friends and let people know what’s going on,” Weaver said in her opening remarks, addressing residents’ concerns that they were not being given accurate updates on the City’s water. About 50 residents attended the forum at Mott Community College Event Center.
Robert Bincsik, newly appointed director of public works, touched on the progress of the pipe replacement, stating that while there have been obstacles like being understaffed, there has still been progress throughout the City.
“To date, we have replaced 7,752 service lines. I think it’s a huge accomplishment,” Bincsik said.
Next, residents heard from representatives of AECOM, a global engineering design firm, about what they hope to accomplish in Flint. Alan Wong, senior program manager for Los Angeles-based AECOM, spoke on the opportunity the City has to be at the forefront of these kinds of infrastructure projects.
“Flint is really at the forefront of establishing what we would call standard operating procedures that the whole country is going to be watching and want to follow,” Wong said.
Keeping with Mayor Weaver’s stated effort toward open communication, residents heard from Georgella Muirhead from Vandyke-Horn, a public relations company responsible for the community outreach aspects of the FAST Start program. Muirhead had been in Flint in July conducting focus groups around this project, having what she called “candid conversation” with residents.
“We had a chance to talk about what some of the concerns were that the residents had in the city of Flint. We had a conversation about what would make them feel that we were moving forward, what would make them believe that the things we were saying were true,” Muirhead said.
“We started listening then and we are still listening and I can promise you today that we will continue to listen,” Muirhead assured residents in attendance.
Joseph Moss Jr., senior vice president and global director of urban initiatives for AECOM, spoke next and commented on the fact that while they were not able to provide answers to all of the residents’ concerns currently, they would be prepared to do so at another community forum on May 31.
Moss then added that he hopes residents will not hold back when it comes to assessing AECOM and its progress on the pipe replacement.
“In building trust, confidence, and transparency, we must open up everything to you and we will do that,” Moss said.
EVM Managing Editor Meghan Christian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.