By Patsy Isenberg
At an agenda-rich College Cultural Neighborhood Association meeting Jan. 17, a turnout of about 30 residents heard from RACER Trust about the chemical contaminant PFAS at Buick City, learned about the organization All About Animals, received a summary from DM Burr Security Service and discussed the College Cultural neighborhood’s (CCN) upcoming 100th anniversary.
In addition, Seventh Ward City Councilperson Monica Galloway and 49th District State Representative John D. Cherry provided updates and took questions. Many residents stayed past the 9 p.m. scheduled end-time to continue discussion.
RACER Trust updates on Buick City
The first of two speakers was Grant Trigger, cleanup manager from Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response (RACER) Trust, who offered an update regarding per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) at the Buick City brownfield. RACER Trust is the agency that has taken over the abandoned complex, property that spans 413 acres and is located on Leith Street in Flint’s Eastside. RACER was created in 2011 in a settlement agreement with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York during the General Motors Chapter 11 reorganization. It has three major roles regarding former GM properties: to manage and fund environmental cleanup, to manage the properties while they own them, and to try to sell the properties for productive or beneficial use.
Trigger said RACER’s work at Buick City is expected to last for several years. Using slides to detail the project’s goals and progress so far, Trigger said eventually the land will be marketed for sale and redevelopment. Overseeing the work is the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).
He said a lot of attention has been placed on all environmental work because of what’s being learned about PFAS (per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances). Trigger explained PFAS started invading soil and water with materials newly introduced in the 50s. Many products such as carpeting, clothing, upholstery, paper food wrappings, fire-fighting foams, and metal plating contain PFAS. Other widely-used materials such as Teflon, Scotchguard, and Vortex all contain PFAS. Trigger said only in the last few years has the substance even been able to be measured, now in parts per trillion.
“What does it mean when you say ‘parts per trillion?… It’s one second in 32,000 years,” Trigger explained to help residents conceptualize the amount. He said it is not yet known exactly what to do about cleaning up PFAS. “The determination of how much is enough is so hard to do… Is there a safe level?” he said. “Now the standard in the state of Michigan for surface water is twelve parts per trillion and in drinking water from your well, it is 70 parts per trillion.”
At Buick City, according to materials Trigger passed out during the CCNA meeting, “to the best of (their) knowledge, none of the PFAS at Buick City is impacting any known drinking water source.”
However, “What we have is a problem and a concern without the ability to deal with it,” Trigger said.
“Trap Neuter Return” program for stray animals
The second presenter was Angela Roth from All About Animals, a new animal clinic at 507 W. Atherton Rd. It offers affordable spay and neuter services, training and wellness exams. The clinic offers many services at a lower cost than most veterinarian offices, but Roth said diagnostic services for pets should still be obtained through a veterinarian.
One service offered is a “Trap Neuter Return” (TNR) system. It involves catching stray animals in an easy-to-use trap, spaying or neutering the animal and giving them a wellness check and all necessary shots in All About Animal’s on-site transport van, and then returning them to their familiar environment.
Roth said this system is catching on with many animal lovers because it cuts down on the number of feral cats on the streets. Roth said the Flint clinic spayed 12,000 animals last year.
Residents can help as well, Roth said. All About Animals loans out traps which she said are easy to use. Classes for TNR training are available monthly for a $10 fee. Once you take the class, TNR is $25 per cat. The organization also offers a class on how to make shelters for cats on the streets during the cold weather season. More information is available at allaboutanimalsrescue.org.
Neighborhood watch/DM Burr report
CCNA Neighborhood Watch Chair Mike Herriman introduced a patrol officer from DM Burr Security, Jared Matthews, who works the CCN. Some residents use DM Burr, so Matthews was there to report on what he sees while patrolling the neighborhood nine and a half hours a week. He said patrollers switch their hours around as much as they can so that patrol times can’t be predicted by would-be criminals. Matthews and Herriman suggested ways to increase safety and lessen crime, including increased lighting and trimming hedges. Increased use of cameras help police identify criminal activity. One resident thanked Matthews for escorting a disoriented resident to her home and checking the house before leaving.
One concern voiced was about a house on Chandler Avenue where serious criminal activity had been suspected. Herriman said the residents who had been living there have moved to another city. The police know where they’ve moved to, and new occupants have moved in and are fitting in nicely.
Bipartisan efforts seem likelier now in Lansing, Cherry says
CCNA President Mike Keeler introduced John Cherry, a CCN resident elected in November as 49th District state representative. He represents half of the neighborhood. Cherry described a camera program, “Operation Green Light” implemented by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. Cherry explained that businesses “opt into the program and pay a one time fee which goes to the Detroit police department.” He says there’s been talk of starting a program like that in Flint. Cherry reached out to Comcast about whether that service was available for residential use. He was told that “yes, they don’t advertise it but…Mike Duggan down in Detroit went to them and asked them to create this service.” He said Andy Schor, mayor of Lansing, is also looking into this program.
Cherry gave a rundown of various committees assignments in the Statehouse as the new legislature takes over. They include the Ways and Means committee, which oversees all the other committees; the Appropriations committee; the Policy committee; and a Select committee. Sheldon Neeley, representative for the other half of the CCN, was appointed to the Ways and Means committee, Cherry and Sheryl Kennedy were appointed to the Appropriations committee, and Tim Sneller was placed on the Policy committee. “So we’re well-positioned to help deliver things for our residents,” Cherry said.
Cherry, a Democrat, also shared a conversation he had with a Democratic colleague on the trip home from Lansing on Wednesday, after his first trip to the legislature. “It was kind of interesting…We were chatting about things and they said ‘you know something’s a little bit different this session because the Republicans are actually coming over and talking to us now. It has to do with a Democratic governor and, if anybody wants to get anything done, we’ve gotta work together.
“So right now we’re at a moment that hopefully will last a little while where folks want to work together and get some things done. I’m feeling pretty hopeful about that,” he said.
Seventh Ward City Councilperson Monica Galloway asked Cherry to explain what the “Appropriations Committee” does. Cherry said, “Appropriations is the committee that passes state budgets.” Galloway said it’s reassuring to have someone in the legislature from our community who is “close to the money.” She requested that Cherry keep his constituents informed on the insurance reform progress because Michigan insurance “hasn’t really been looked at in 20 years.” Cherry agreed that it has been a long time, but stated he has confidence in the Democrats on the special insurance committee. He said he’s looking for lower rates and to make sure there’s no discrimination because of where residents live. Cherry explained that, judging from why the plan that made it to the floor (and didn’t pass) last time doesn’t seem to be a partisan issue and thinks the speaker wants to see a solution to this “difficult issue.”
Galloway explains city council walk-outs
Galloway began her report by saying, “I need your help.” She explained why she walked out on the last two Flint City Council meetings. Galloway said she is being intimidated by other members during the meetings. In one case, not a single agenda item had been gotten to four hours into the meeting, according to Galloway. She requested feedback from residents on how best to communicate to them. She said she wants residents to understand what she’s up against by making it possible for people to see what is done in council meetings. Someone suggested that several members walk out of meetings together when things get “disruptive,” but worries about the possible “backlash.”
The next general CCNA meeting will be March 21 and the next Neighborhood Watch meeting will be Feb. 21. CCNA vice-president Sherry Hayden announced the head of the new Flint Cultural Center Academy will speak at the next general meeting.
EVM staff writer Patsy Isenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.