By Patsy Isenberg
Residents at the College Cultural Neighborhood Association (CCNA) meeting March 15 hashed out several issues with CCNA President Mike Keeler and others, including City of Flint Department of Public Works Director Robert Bincsik, ranging from pipe replacement to neighborhood trees.
One primary item of discussion focused on the Genesee Conservation District (GCD) board member election set for March 22.
Overview of the March 22 Conservation District election
According to Keeler, the election is important to the CCNA because some neighborhood residents are not happy with the handling of city-owned trees—those in the spaces between the sidewalk and street–by the GCD, the body responsible for the city’s landscapes. The Genesee Conservation District, run by administrator Angela Warren, is an entity of state government — one of 78 such conservation districts in the state — which operates in partnership with the City of Flint.
Keeler showed photographs illustrating GCD-managed actions of concern in the so-called “tree lawns”: live trees cut down leaving stumps, for example, and one that needed to be cut down, on the contrary, but that was left. He noted cases where residents did not receive notification that work would be done. Keeler said the push for votes is crucial to the CCNA.
There are five total board members, three of whom are up for re-election. If the three candidates some in the CCN are supporting get elected, Keeler asserted, the CCN would have a stronger voice and better control of decisions made at the GCD.
As detailed in an East Village Magazine update on the election here, two four-year terms and one partial term ending in 2019 are on the ballot.
Candidates for the two four-year seats include Erin Caudell, Andrew Everman, Caroline Kellogg, and David Lossing.
Candidates for the single partial term opening are Lauri Elbing, Kristen Miner, and Candice Mushatt.
Editor’s Note: This story has been amended, based on a follow-up email from CCNA vice-president Sherry Hayden, to clarify that the CCNA did not endorse Caroline Kellogg, Andy Everman and Kristen Miner as the story originally stated. Those names, listed on a flyer distributed in the neighborhood, represented recommendations from Keeler and Hayden personally, she said, but not officially for the CCNA. “We did not present it to the crowd that CCNA membership endorsed these candidates, one because it was never voted on and two, we don’t endorse. In elections we invite all candidates present to speak.” Hayden pointed out that David Lossing was present at the meeting, for example, and was welcomed to speak.
Keeler explained what he called a somewhat confusing voting procedure. The election will be held at Asbury United Methodist Church on Davison Road from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 22. Residents unable to vote during those hours can fill out a ballot at 1525 Elms Rd from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday or get an absentee ballot by calling the GCD 810-820-2681 Ext. 3. Ballots must be returned by March 21.
Since the voting procedure is unclear to some people, CCN resident Mark Fisher, who does the real estate report, offered to collect ballots and take them by hand to meet the voting deadline.
DPW Director on pipe replacements, restoration
The most time-consuming item was the presentation by Bincsik, who has worked for the City of Flint since 1996. He began by describing the department he now directs. The Department of Public Works, he said, is the city’sbiggest operation, covering street maintenance and managing the city’s utilities. He said the utilities side is the biggest part of the operation. He said to get an idea of the size of the department’s territory, if one drove from one corner of the city (Clio Road at the western side) to the other corner (Dort near Atherton) using only residential streets it would become clear. He added, “We really don’t have the revenue we need to manage all of our stuff. I think our people do a wonderful job given the resources they’re given.”
Residents challenged him by asking questions on several issues, mostly needed street repairs, potholes, pipe replacement and water issues, meter reading problems and reporting water thefts.
While repeating the budget restrictions the DPW is up against, Bincsik took notes on several of the issues.
“We’re going to go forward with the way we do lead service lines and restoration a little bit different this year,” Bincsik said. He then added that AECOM, a global engineering design firm hired last year by the city to manage the pipe replacement project, will be responsible for the fifth phase of the project – restoration of the streets and lawns upended by the pipe replacement work.
Bincski said in light of numerous resident complaints about lawn damage, holes and bumps left behind by the pipe replacement crews, city officials hope the time gap between the replacement and the street and lawn restoration “is going to be, we’re hopeful…much faster.”
Gilkey Creek bridge repair
Everman of Flushing, not a CCN resident but a frequent volunteer for its projects and a board member of the Genesee Conservation District, presented details about prospective repair of the Court Street bridge over Gilkey Creek east of Crapo Street.
The limestone bridge, built in the 1920s, is showing signs of deterioration, and Everman, who is coordinating the project, explained he is working to acquire necessary funding, determining what needs to be done to repair it and who will carry out the plans. He showed several photographs of the bridge site through the years.
The potential project has brought together three neighborhood associations: Ed Custer from the Central Park neighborhood, Andy Allard from the Fairfield neighborhood, and Keeler from the CCN. Also working with Everman are Mike Zelenski from Mott Community College, and Mike Lynch of Millington, business agent for the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Union Local 2. Also involved are structural engineer, Mike Weise, architect and CCN resident Kurt Neiswender, and representatives of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).
One photo, from the 1920s, was taken before the bridge existed, showing just a field. Another one showed the Burroughs home that sat on the property. Everman said the bridge actually was decorated with leftover stones from that home. Then Everman showed a recent one with Flint City Council members Eric Mays and Allan Griggs standing in front of it.
“We’ve had a structural engineer come out and look at this–he’s given us a thumbs up,” Everman said. “We’ve gone over the bridge, we’ve examined it. It’s a solid bridge, well worth saving.”
Pierce Park setback
Finally Keeler shared what he called disappointing news about improvements to the vacant Pierce Park Clubhouse and former nine-hole golf course. At the November CCNA meeting, Keeler had reported the CCNA was quite enthusiastic about Todd and Tara Korpi’s pending proposals for the space. But that has been put on hold. Keeler said Korpi ran into problems. “The city changed the rules again and the last thing he [Korpi] heard was that it was going to take another year,” Keeler said, putting the CCNA’s hopes for the property back to Square One.
EVM staff writer Patsy Isenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. EVM Editor Jan Worth-Nelson contributed to this report. She can be reached at email@example.com.