By Tom Travis
At the June 22 City Council meeting, disputes between council members resulted in two councilpersons being ejected and three councilpersons voluntarily leaving the meeting in protest. With five of the nine council members gone from the meeting quorum was lost.
The often contentious panel re-convened two days later, June 24, and this time they successfully worked through a 210-page agenda.
Council approves three-year contract with accounting firm for City audits
The Council approved a three-year contract with accounting firm Rehmann Robson to complete city audits through FY2022. Finance Committee Chairperson Kate Fields (4th Ward) stated that Rehmann stepped in last year and completed the audit on time despite challenges.
The approved three-year contract has set pricing for each year: FY 2020 $225,000, FY 2021 $233,500 and FY 2022 $242,500 amounting to nearly $700,000 for three years of audits. The resolution also stated that there is room for “out-of-pocket expenses” to be added.
The FY2019 audit cost the City of Flint over $400,000. Council President Monica Galloway (7th Ward) asked the City’s Chief Financial Officer and City Treasurer Amanda Trujillo “what safeguards” are in place that the out-of-pocket expenses won’t increase the audits?
Trujillo stated that Rehmann Robson believes there will not be significant “out-of-pocket” expenses as there were last year. Trujillo stated that because Rehmann Robson had to go back and do a lot of research into the previous audit by Yeo & Yeo there were additional expenses. Trujillo said that Rehmann does not expect to have those additional expenses this year.
The Rehmann Robson contract was approved on a 6-3 vote with Councilpersons Galloway (7th Ward), Winfrey-Carter (5th Ward), Eric Mays (1st Ward) voting no.
Two EAB Appointments approved, one denied
City Council approved one reappointment, approved a new appointee and voted against one recommended appointment to the Ethics and Accountability Board (EAB).
Nicholas D’Aigle has served one term on the EAB. Originally nominated by Fourth Ward Councilperson Kate Fields, she recommended D’Aigle for a six year reappointment. His reappointment was approved in a 9-0 vote.
Mayor Sheldon Neeley recommended Pastor Jeffrey Hawkins to fill a spot on the EAB. Hawkins will replace Joyce Driskill, former EAB president, whose term ended in June 2020. Hawkins is the pastor of Prince of Peace Missionary Baptist Church of Flint located at 417 Stevenson Street, Flint. His appointment was also approved in a 9-0 vote.
The third recommendation for the EAB came from Fifth Ward Councilperson Jerri Winfrey-Carter. Winfrey-Carter recommended local Black Lives Matter Flint chapter president, DeWaun Robinson. Councilperson Allan Griggs asked that both Hawkins and Robinson be brought on the line for questioning. City Administration were able to get both Hawkins and Robinson on the line. The Council spent one hour asking questions to Robinson and debating his appointment to the EAB.
Robinson was not approved for EAB appointment in a 4-4-1 vote. 4 yes votes, 4 no votes and Third Ward Councilperson Santino Guerra abstaining.
Juneteenth set as an official paid holiday in Flint
The council approved a resolution brought forward by Mayor Neeley to establish Juneteenth as an official paid holiday in the City of Flint. Juneteenth was celebrated in Flint on Friday, June 19. The name Juneteenth comes from combining the words “June” and “nineteenth”.
In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves. It became effective on January 1, 1863 but it wasn’t until June 19, 1865, two and half years later, that slaves in Texas were informed they were free.
Slave owners in Texas had refused to acknowledge the end of slavery and ignored the Emancipation Proclamation. Despite the Emancipation Proclamation the U.S. Constitution still needed to be amended to legally abolish slavery. In 1865 the 13th Amendment was ratified declaring once and for all that slavery was illegal.
Lawmakers in Lansing are working on legislation to establish Juneteenth as a state holiday in Michigan.
Property purchase approved for final Flint link to complete Iron Belle Trail
The council approved the purchase of a piece of property in the southern half of the city limits known as the Grand Traverse Greenway Trail Project. According to the City’s Planning and Development Director, Suzanne Wilcox, this property is the last link in the Flint area connecting the Iron Belle Trail.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) website explains, “The Iron Belle Trail is Michigan’s showcase trail that touches hundreds of municipalities and crosses through 48 different Michigan counties. Using existing trails, networks and new connections, the trail extends more than 2,000 miles from the far western tip of the Upper Peninsula to Belle Isle in Detroit, with a route of bicycling, and a route of hiking.”
Wilcox explained that the funding for the trail is being provided by two different grants both from the DNR. Out of the $525,000 approved last night, Wilcox said $521,600 will be funded by the DNR grants and $3,400 will come from the City’s Planning and Development fund.
In an email sent Thursday from the City of Flint administration Mayor Neeley stated, “Completion of this trail helps to celebrate the beauty of Flint. Walking and biking trails are building blocks for a happy, healthy community — plus this project will be a major asset for other ongoing economic development efforts,” Mayor Sheldon Neeley said.
$800,000 in water treatment chemicals approved
Council approved the purchase of a batch of chemicals needed each year for the treatment of both drinking and waste water. The money approved last night will come out of the FY2021 budget which is set to begin July 2020. The series of resolutions approved for chemical purchases totaled over $823,000.
EVM Assistant Editor and City Beat Reporter Tom Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.