By Meghan Christian
While April brought still more fighting between Flint City Council members and the community, it seemed the council got more done than in previous months. The month’s work included movement toward the next phase of the pipe replacement program, toward a job description for the office of the ombudsperson, and making three appointments to the Downtown Development Authority.
Two contractors approved for Phase VI of FAST Start program
City council approved the contracts for two contractors to begin work on Phase VI of the FAST Start program. Lang Constructors, Inc. and W.T. Stevens Construction, Inc. were both approved to service five zones each of the ten service line replacement zones outlined in Phase VI. According to the agenda for the April 8 regular Flint City Council meeting, Lang Constructors contract is set for $5,221,907.50 and the contract with W.T. Stevens Construction is set for $5,624,600, both “contingent upon the award of additional funding from the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) grant by the State of Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to the City of Flint Water Fund.”
Some members of council had concerns that Lang and W.T. Stevens would not be able to complete the allotted work by the July 31, 2019 proposed end date because of the limited time and number of contractors. “Quality is important and I’m not quite sure that just two contractors are going to get this done,” Ninth Ward Councilperson Eva Worthing said. “I don’t want it to be the City’s…possible goal of it being done by July 31st. If that’s the date you set…then they should live up to the work and we should have to extend contracts,” she added.
It was not just some members of council who took issue with the number of contractors being approved for Phase VI and the amount of time being proposed. Joe Parks, project manager for Flint-based Goyette Mechanical, raised his concerns during the April 8 regular FCC meeting. “In the past we’ve had completion dates of Dec. 31 and four to five contractors out working,” Parks said, adding that Phase V of the program took eight months to complete and they had five contractors working. “I cannot tell you how you are going to do that,” he said, referencing the new proposed completion date of July 31.
“If your goal really is to finish this project this year, which is the way it’s been stated…, then I implore you to look for an alternative way to do that other than what’s presented here in this agenda,” Parks said. “I appeal to you not to just give Goyette a whole bunch of work. I appeal to you on behalf of the citizens of the city, and for the project itself, that you need to bring on more than two contractors,” he added.
Lang Constructors was approved five in favor and four opposed. Those in favor were First Ward Councilperson Eric Mays, Second Ward Councilperson Maurice Davis, Third Ward Councilperson Santino Guerra, Fifth Ward Councilperson Jerri Winfrey-Carter, and Sixth Ward Councilperson Herbert Winfrey.
Those opposed were Fourth Ward Councilperson Kate Fields, Seventh Ward Councilperson Monica Galloway, Eighth Ward Councilperson Allan Griggs, and Ninth Ward Councilperson Eva Worthing. W.T. Stevens was approved five in favor and one opposed. Those in favor were Mays, Davis, Guerra, Winfrey-Carter, and Winfrey. Opposed was Worthing. Fields, Galloway, and Griggs were not present at the time of the vote.
Three appointments were made to the Flint Downtown Development Authority Board by unanimous votes. All three were recommended by Mayor Karen Weaver and will serve four-year terms ending March 31, 2023. Those appointed were Adrian Walker, replacing Thomas James; Brandee Cooke-Brown, filling Deborah Pasco’s seat; and Jonathan Hardman, filling a vacancy left by Barbara Veasley.
Steps forward with office of the ombudsperson
City council approved the ordinance containing the job description for the ombudsperson for first reading during their regular meeting April 22. The ordinance went to second reading by a vote of six in favor and two opposed. Those in favor were Davis, Guerra, Fields, Winfrey, Galloway, and Griggs. Those opposed were Mays and Winfrey-Carter. Worthing was not present at the April 22 meeting and therefore could not vote.
Residents take action
Residents of the city were not shy in voicing their displeasure with the city and with city council during the month of April. For some, issues were mostly with members of council themselves, but for others issues went beyond them and to other areas of the city’s government as well.
Quincy Murphy, activist and former City Charter review commissioner, addressed the issues he has been seeing on council and said, “If we don’t get control of these council meetings it’s going to escalate into something.”
Former resident Pamela Gerald spoke before council for the first time in nearly a decade, she said, to offer criticism and a reminder. “All of you are over the age of 18. You criticize your kids and grandkids for the conduct I seen and witnessed here today,” Gerald said. “The citizens are at the top of the organizational chart and every time you convene and come together, it’s not your business, it’s the peoples’ business.”
Some residents went beyond addressing the council and took actual steps toward achieving their ends. In particular, Flint resident and attorney Linda Pohly filed an official complaint against the City of Flint. The complaint includes allegations of numerous violations of the Open Meetings Act, the Freedom of Information Act, and breaches in the Flint City Charter.
However, not all residents were at odds with the city and with city council. Jeffrey Shelley, Sixth Ward resident, voiced his support for Council President Herbert Winfrey at the April 8 meeting. “My councilperson listens to me… He listens to people, he does a good job, he does a professional job,” Shelley said. “Me, as a Sixth Ward constituent, I wouldn’t sign anything to remove Mr. Winfrey.” Shelley was responding to a request from Flint resident Wilbert Jeret to add a no-confidence vote to the ballot for the next election – a request Jeret had made first in February and brought up again in April.
“I can tell there’s a lot of tension amongst this city council and amongst the community as well, and I hate to see our community get more divided,” Guerra said. “Instead I would like to see us become more united.”
EVM Managing Editor Meghan Christian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.