By Luther Houle
The Flint City Council voted Aug. 26 to sell Flint’s Chevy Commons to Genesee County for $6.2 million in a plan to restore and improve Flint’s riverside parks.
The council also passed a resolution to rescind a lease with water bottling company Zero Mass Water, and supported Austin Morgan Contracting in a bid protest against the City.
The panel conducted committee meetings for two hours, followed by close to four hours in the regular council meeting. Three and a half hours into the council meeting, First Ward Councilperson Eric Mays was unanimously voted out of the meeting for disorderly conduct.
Chevy Commons Purchase By Genesee County
The council voted eight to one on a purchase agreement between the City of Flint and Genesee County to sell nine parcels of Chevy Commons for $6,263,700. Stretching between Swartz Creek and Chevrolet Avenue, Chevy Commons will be developed by Genesee County as a public park. The $6.2 million funding for the purchase comes from a $4,697,775 state grant, and $1,565,925 from the county.
According to materials provided by City Council, the purchase arose from a mutual desire among City, County and State officials to further implement the Flint Riverfront Restoration Project (FRRP).
The FRRP began in late 2009 when modifications being designed for the Hamilton Dam inspired plans to restore the larger downtown riverfront area.
The conditions of the purchase, detailed in the resolution passed by the council, will further the FRRP in two ways. Genesee County is restricted in how they use Chevy Commons to enhance the project, and the $6.2 million will be held by a third-party escrow agent, and can only be used by the City to pay for constructing “certain improvements” to public parks on the Flint River between Chevrolet and Stewart Avenue.
According to the resolution, deed restrictions specifically require that Genesee County use the purchased land as a park open to the general public for recreational purposes. The County may not charge either an entrance fee or a parking fee without written consent of the City, and if the County decides to resell, lease, or cease using the property, Flint will have the option to repurchase it for exactly one dollar.
Additionally, the County can not change the name of the park from Chevy Commons without the City’s consent, and any profits earned by the County’s involvement in the FRRP will be shared evenly with the City.
The purchase agreement does not specify which parcels within Chevy Commons the county would use the $6.2 million to improve, or to what extent, but it does mention Riverbank Park, Vietnam Veterans Park, and the river banks between Chevrolet and Stewart Avenue as important parts of the FRRP. Which improvements are made will be contemplated in light of the City’s master plan.
The agreement does list specific goals of the FRRP to be funded, including improvement of public safety and fishing access. It states Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principals will be implemented along the Flint River Corridor. Finally, paddling will be possible through downtown Flint as the FRRP takes measures to improve kayak safety.
The resolution passed eight to one, with Councilperson Eric Mays the sole dissenter. After the vote, he explained to his colleagues he dissented because of a lack of time to discuss the purchase, stating ,“When you cut off my discussion, I vote no.”
Bid protests from Austin Morgan Contracting
Facing its second contracting bid protest this summer, the Department of Planning and Development had to once again allow City Council to weigh in. Christina Rasins represented Austin Morgan Companies in two separate bid protests. One regarded a contract for blight project management, and another regarding Spring 2019 tree planting.
The first question before the council was whether Austin Morgan’s bid protest regarding the blight project management contract was submitted on time. According to Suzanne Wilcox, director of planning and development, and Joyce McClane, director of purchasing for the City of Flint, Rasins had seven days to make her bid protest after the company was denied the contract, but did not respond until 13 days.
According to Rasins, however, the City was not effective in communicating her company’s denial of the contract, and said she had responded the day after she became aware of the situation.
The council agreed with Rasins, voting eight to one that her protest was timely, with Councilperson Maurice Davis dissenting. They then moved forward onto the question of whether Austin Morgan was “sufficiently grievanced.”
Rasins contended she should have been awarded the Blight Project Management contract because her company was the lowest bidder. She then said the project was put up for rebid without her or her company’s knowledge, never posted or advertised.
She said once she found out about the rebid, and tried to make a bid, it was not available to be accessed online, and had not been properly posted. Despite the issues, she noticed one of her competitors were still able to place a bid, and protested what she characterized as an unfair and uncompetitive situation.
Though it is the city administration, not the council, which would act on the bid protest, the council voted eight to one, with Councilperson Maurice Davis again dissenting, to formally consider her grievance, which the City will take into account when considering the protest.
At about three and a half hours into the meeting, Mays accused the rest of the council of discriminating against him and began yelling. He stood up, walked in front of Council President Herbert Winfrey, pointed at him and yelled “damn you!”
He then turned and pointed at Councilpersons Kate Fields, Santino Guerra, and Maurice Davis one by one, yelling “damn you!” He then turned to face Councilperson Monica Galloway and yelled “damn you!” Galloway reminded President Winfrey there was a motion and second on the floor to remove Mays. The vote was eight to zero by the rest of the council and Mays removed himself.
Zero Mass Water Pulls Out of Lease
On June 10, 2019 the City leased land at the Flint Water Treatment Plant to the company Zero Mass Water to produce bottled water with ZMW’s product called SOURCE Hydropanels. The council voted to rescind this lease with an eight to zero vote–Councilperson Eric Mays had been removed from the meeting by then.
Zero Mass officials had intended to produce water using specialized solar panels said to be capable of pulling clean water from the air. Since entering the lease agreement, Zero Mass has informed the City the panels could not be built at the Water Treatment Plant, as the ground there could not support their weight. Originally they had explored Pierce Park, a former nine-hole golf course, but after a plethora of concerns from College Cultural Neighborhood residents, ZMW dropped that plan.
While they will not be operating at the Water Treatment Plant, Zero Mass representatives have told local officials they still are considering other sites within the city.
EVM Staff Writer Luther Houle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. EVM Staff Writer Tom Travis contributed to this story. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Banner photo of the City Council Chamber by Meghan Christian.