by Tom Travis
City Council passed two big-ticket pieces of legislation that have been on their agendas for months in their Monday video/telephone meeting. Shortly thereafter, Mayor Sheldon Neeley sent an email scolding the council for the staggering 11-hour-long meeting, which ran from Monday night until 4 a.m. Tuesday morning.
In the marathon meeting, City Council had one final discussion over entering into a $14.7 million contract with D’Agostini and Sons to build a secondary water pipeline backing up the city’s existing water supply through the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA).
At the April 28 council meeting, Eric Oswald, director of the state’s Drinking Water and Environmental Health Division of EGLE (Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy) stated that in the event of a catastrophic single failure point in the city’s primary water source there is only about one day’s worth of water stored in the supply tanks.
Oswald stated the present contract before the council for a five and a half mile long Karegnondi Water Authority secondary water source pipeline, connecting the Genesee County Drain Commission treatment plant to the Flint water treatment plant on Dort Highway, was the only “viable option” for Flint.
He noted the contract has met and been approved by the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act and the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Oswald was not present in Monday’s meeting but the council considered points he made in the previous meeting. Then after an hours-long discussion between council members and city officials, the council finally voted 5-4 to approve the pipeline.
Voting no were Councilpersons Eric Mays (1st Ward), Jerry Winfrey-Carter (5th Ward), Monica Galloway (7th Ward) and Allan Griggs (8th Ward).
The council then voted 8-1 to approve the reconstruction of a reservoir on Dort Hwy. This would make two reservoirs for the city of Flint. The other reservoir, the city’s only operational one, is on Cedar Street. The Dort reservoir, located on the Water plant’s property at 4500 Dort Hwy is a 20-million-gallon reservoir built in 1966, according to a Rowe Engineering study.
Staggering 11-hour meeting leads Mayor Neeley to chastise council in an email
The community is familiar with City Council’s long hours of meetings often into the early morning hours. Monday’s meeting was a record breaking 11 hour meeting, which began at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, May 11 and ended on Tuesday, May 12 at 4:40 a.m.
In response to this meeting, Neeley responded with an email in which he scolds the council for their “dysfunction” and adds a time limit for his staff and department heads as far as their participation in city council meetings.
The email stated, “Mayor Sheldon Neeley today notified City Hall department heads that they can be excused from City Council meetings after 9 p.m. The move follows months of poorly run and quarrelsome late-night meetings, and it comes on the heels of an 11-hour meeting that lasted until 4:47 a.m..”
A “gross lack of leadership”
Mayor Neeley further stated, “Failure to complete essential business in a timely fashion shows a gross lack of leadership and injects chaos into an organization. The people deserve better.”
Concerning his staff and city department heads Neeley stated, “Staff attending meetings are critical members of the team providing service to the residents of Flint and that work starts at 8 a.m.”
Neeley ended by stating, “I hope the City council leadership will manage meetings better so that no staff – including Clerk Inez Brown and her office, which report directly to Council will be subjected to these unreasonable working conditions. The best decisions are made by alert, sober and sane minds.”
The email noted that the city attorney and city administrator will stay along with the city clerk at the meetings after 9 p.m.
EVM Assistant Editor and City Beat reporter Tom Travis can be reached at email@example.com.