By Tom Travis
Flint City Council met electronically in a succession of four committee meetings Wednesday night for 10 and half hours from 5 p.m. until the final adjournment at 3:30 a.m. In addition to the committee meetings, a 30-minute-long executive session began at 1 a.m. All nine City Council members were initially present.
The pictures of city council members and city administration officials appeared on the screen as they spoke throughout the evening on the YouTube broadcast. Between 15 and 25 viewers commented in the live chat during the meeting.
$14.7 million pipeline contract discussed
Following up on the April 13 council meeting, the council again discussed a proposal to construct a five-and-a-half-mile long secondary water source pipeline. The council had deadlocked 4 to 4 on a vote to award a $14.7 million contract to L. D’Agostini and Sons of Macomb County,
Funding for the project already has been allocated as part of $100 million designated for Flint in 2017 from the Water Infrastructure Improvement for the Nation (WIIN) Act. The issue before the council is whom to hire for the work.
Councilperson and Finance Committee Chair, Kate Fields (4th Ward) pointed out to EVM that the secondary water source pipeline is required by law, in case Flint’s primary source, Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA), of treated water becomes inaccessible.
The secondary pipeline would take water from Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA), the water source for most of Genesee County outside of Flint, to the county’s treatment plant. Water from KWA is raw (non-treated) water. Because KWA water is raw water, it would need to be treated through the Genesee County treatment facility and in this case Flint’s water would be delivered from the Genesee County Drain Commission. Flint’s primary water source, GLWA, provides treated water.
During the midst of the water crisis in 2017, the City of Flint signed a 30-year contract with GLWA after previously committing to the 67-mile-long KWA pipeline–a set of complications before, during and after the move to the Flint River in April, 2014. The current proposal, however, is for a five-and-a-half mile, 36-inch, underground pipeline only, which would connect Flint to the KWA as a secondary water source. Both the KWA and GLWA draw from Lake Huron.
In an upcoming council meeting, Monday, April 27, the council will reconsider a resolution for the secondary water source pipeline contract. Six of the nine council members will have to vote in favor of the reconsideration before council can move forward with the resolution.
Council person and former Finance Committee Chair Eric Mays (1st Ward) asked City Administrator Clyde Edwards how many others had bid on the pipeline contract. Edwards said that there were four total, with Zito Construction being the only local contractor to submit a bid. The bid amounts ranged from $14 million to $21 million with L. D’Agostini coming in as the lowest bid at $14.7 million and Zito Construction was the high bidder at $21 million.
Director of the City of Flint’s Department of Public Works Rob Bincsik stated there were still a few pieces of property to be acquired before construction phase of the project could begin. Bincsik said other than the property acquisitions the project was ready to begin with and ordering and purchasing of supplies and equipment.
Two members of the L. D’Agostini team were on the phone to answer questions and speak to the council: Michael D’Agostini, treasurer of L. D’Agostini; and Keith McLean, the company’s corporate counsel.
Council Vice President Maurice Davis (2nd Ward), implored to his fellow council members that “There is no reason to delay another second on the D’Agostini contract.” It was not clear whether the original resolution or a revised resolution will be on Monday’s April 27 council agenda.
Council meetings during “stay at home” executive order debated
The City Council debated for hours the exact wording of a motion concerning ongoing and future council meetings during the pandemic and governor’s executive order “stay at home.” The council finally agreed on a motion stating they will only meet for Council meetings and not Committee meetings. Some council members suggested that, during the pandemic and stay at home order, that the council have telephonic meetings during regular business hours as to avoid having city staff stay up so late into the early morning hours.
Budget proposal jumps by $12 million, to $71 million
The City Council discussed the City’s 2020/2021 proposed budget. It was noted that there was a $12 million dollar increase in the budget from the original budget that was presented. It was clarified last night by Eric Scorsone, that over $10 million of the $12 million increase is in legacy costs and pension payments. The increase in the city’s proposed budget went from $59 million to $71 million.
The City Administration and Department of Finance will present the budget, again, at Monday’s meeting, April 27 telephonically broadcast on YouTube. The public will have a chance to voice questions and comments about the budget at the May 11 council meeting. The new budget will be posted on the City’s website on Tuesday, April 28.
Revenue sharing changes may alter Flint budget picture
Councilperson Kate Fields (4th Ward) noted to her colleagues that the city council will likely have to revisit and amend the budget again in a few months because The State of Michigan will be considering changes to revenue sharing legislation. This change in revenue sharing amounts coming to Flint could alter the budget.
Governor Whitmer, in her 2020 State of the State address, proposed a budget increase of 2.5 per cent for Revenue Sharing. Matt Bach of the Michigan Municipal League stated in a February 6 press release that, “While the 2.5-percent increase in statutory revenue sharing is appreciated, it is important that policymakers recognize it is still about $50 million less than it was nine years ago, when Gov. Rick Snyder took office. It is $700 million short of full funding under the statutory formula, which is repeatedly ignored by the Legislature and Administration.”
Residents object to proposed marijuana facilities
The marijuana ordinances were on the agendas for discussion. Several residents either called in or wrote emails to be read by the City Clerk’s staff during the meeting voicing their strong opinions that they were against marijuana distribution and commerce facilities to be in residential areas. Many Ward 8 residents from the Woodcroft neighborhood area have been voicing their objections over the months about a facility being remodeled for marijuana sales at Miller Road and Colchester Road, across the street from the Woodcroft Market.
City Attorney Angela Wheeler was present on the telephone call most of the night. She noted to the council members that the attorneys for the the case to be discussed in the executive session had been on the line waiting since 5 p.m. The executive session began after 1 a.m.
The next City Council meeting will be held telephonically on YouTube starting at 5 p.m. Monday, April 27.
EVM Assistant Editor and Flint City Hall Beat reporter Tom Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.