By Luther Houle
As bars around town closed down and folks stepped out into the dark, so too did Flint’s City Council members at 2 a.m. Monday night after a nearly 10-hour-long council meeting.
While the meeting tested the endurance of those who attended, the council made progress on some of Flint’s key developments and proposals. Highlights include accepting nearly $3.9 million funding from the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, discussing a potential $6.2 million purchase of Chevy Commons by Genesee County, and green lighting $200,000 funding for development of a new grocery co-op at 5402 Clio Road.
Federal Block Grants
The CDBG program supplies funding to agencies in urban communities to provide quality housing and expanded economic opportunities in viable urban communities. The federal grant was approved with amendment after an hour of discussion led by Councilpersons Eric Mays of Ward One and Monica Galloway of Ward Seven. The $3,889,616 granted by CDBG in part will go to benefit blight elimination, literacy expansion, and police work.
The resolution also included acceptance of $840,005 funding from the HOME Investment Partnership (HOME) Program. HOME is a federal block grant, much like CDBG, which focuses on the building, buying, and rehabilitation of affordable housing for low-income individuals.
Lastly, the resolution also included an acceptance of $328,616 from the Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) Program. ESG helps individuals and their families find permanent housing after experiencing a housing crisis or homelessness.
The proposed grant allocations were accepted with a vote of five to two. Yes votes came from Council President Herb Winfrey, Allen Griggs (Ward Eight), Mays, Santino Guerra (Ward Three) and Jerri Winfrey-Carter (Ward Five). Galloway and Maurice Davis (Ward Two) voted no. Kate Fields (Ward Four) and Eva Worthing (Ward Nine) had left by that time. More information on CDBG, HOME, and ESG can be found at www.hudexchange.info
Chevy Commons purchase
Janet Van De Winkle, project sustainability director of the Genesee County Parks Commission, presented a proposal for the county to buy nine parcels of land along the Flint River which make up Chevy Commons, site of the former Fisher Body factory complex and long called “Chevy in the Hole,” for $6,263,700. The purchase amount would be held by a third-party escrow agent, and would be used only to pay for constructing improvements to certain public parks in Flint.
According to Van De Winkle, the proposal has been in development since 2016, and the window of opportunity is closing. If the purchase can not be approved quickly, she says the deal is in danger of being withdrawn. Despite this alleged time sensitivity, the committee decided to table the resolution to the next committee meeting in a five to four vote. The Davis, Winfrey-Carter, Winfrey, Galloway, and Mays voted yes and Worthing, Fields, Griggs, and Guerra voted no.
Grocery co-op support okayed
During the 4:30 p.m. Special Affairs Committee meeting preceding the regular council meeting, Pastor Reginald Flynn of Foss Avenue Baptist Church came forward as executive director of North Flint Reinvestment Corporation to request support for commercial renovation of a property at 5402 Clio Road. The $5.3 million project already has $1.5 million invested in pre-development, and is requesting from the council $200,000 allocated from the CDBG.
Generally, he explained, grocery co-ops function much like a regular grocery store, where consumers can purchase a membership for discounts on food. Many co-ops also give their members voting power on corporate decisions.
The resolution brought some disagreement among councilmembers. Eva Worthing of Ward Nine said “I asked my daughter yesterday what she wants to be when she grows up, and she said ‘a fairy princess’. And I’m not gonna put money on that.” She continued, “If you’re gonna vote for something, it can’t be on hopes and dreams. It’s gotta have the proof.”
From the other side of the room Maurice Davis of Ward Two said, “I’m gonna call it crumbs [regarding the $200,000]. I know it’s a little bit of money, but not compared to what’s put downtown.”
He asked, “Why can’t we just be glad that Mr. Flynn’s spearheading an economic development opportunity for people to own their own businesses on the North side?”
The resolution passed six to two, securing $200,000 for the new co-op. Guerra, Winfrey-Carter, Winfrey, Galloway, Mays, and Davis voted yes; Worthing and Griggs voted no. Fields was not present for the vote.
Additional resolutions passed approved a $2.2 million purchase order from the Department of Purchases and Supplies for water meter program management and implementation, and a contract that will place police officers in service of the Mass Transportation Authority (MTA) for a total reimbursement of $254,660 through 2021.
One more resolution authorized a contract with Rehmann Robson, a Saginaw-based accounting firm, to perform Flint’s 2019 audit for $225,000. Tamar Lewis, deputy finance director and acting CFO for the City of Flint, introduced two representatives from the company, and said the contract was very time sensitive, with a federal deadline for the audit of Oct. 1. Yeo and Yeo, another accounting firm, had arranged to perform the audit, but withdrew at the last minute. The resolution passed with a unanimous nine to zero vote.
Banner photo of Flint City Council chambers during a council meeting by Paul Rozycki.
EVM Staff Writer Luther Houle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
EVM Staff Writer Tom Travis contributed to this report and provided photos as credited. He can be reached at email@example.com.