By Coner Segren
Reminders of the Sept. 18 pipeline replacement deadline, COVID-19 testing sites, the census, placemaking projects featuring porches, and ongoing efforts against blight were the main topics of discussion of the Sept. 12 meeting of Flint Neighborhoods United (FNU) conducted via Zoom because of the pandemic.
The meeting was moderated by Theresa Roach, program director of the Crim Foundation; and Lucille James, FNU vice-president; with the assistance of FNU president Carma Lewis.
Sept. 18 deadline for lead pipe replacement
The deadline is Sept. 18 for Flint residents to request free pipe inspections and replacement if their pipes are found to be made of lead.
There is no charge for the service, part of a lawsuit filed in 2016 by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) , and a group of Flint citizens on behalf of Flint residents affected by the Flint water crisis.
Sarah Tallman, senior attorney from the NRDC, was present in the meeting and reviewed the basic of the settlement and what it means to Flint residents.
The settlement requires the City of Flint to find and replace the city’s lead and galvanized steel water lines, all paid for by the State of Michigan.
If you had an active water account in March of 2017 or have an active water account now, the City of Flint must inspect you line, and if it is found to be made of lead or galvanized steel, they will replace it at no cost to you. The contractors will also make sure you have a working faucet filter.
If you submitted a consent from before March 15, 2019, and have not had your service line excavated, you should submit another form. If you had water service as of March 28, 2017 you are eligible for pipe replacement, even if your water has been shut off by then. The City is planning to end the service line replacement program by Nov. 30, 2020.
This includes the restoration of property, meaning the backfill of the hole dug during the excavation and replacement process.
Again, the deadline to register for this service is Sept. 18. You can contact NRDC at 312-651-7918 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find out if your home may have a lead service line at www.flintpipemap.org.
Mayor Neeley seeking accountability in continuing fight against blight
Blight continues to be a top priority for Flint residents as well as Mayor Sheldon Neeley, who appeared at the meeting with Julie Lopez of Crimestoppers, a group that passes on anonymous tips to police about dumping. Lopez said the group had been raising awareness through yard signs, door hangers, and having at least one billboard in every ward.
“Flint is our home, and we all take a lot of pride in our home, and so those that would treat our home poorly must be held accountable,” Neeley said.
While the City of Flint has picked over a million pounds of debris this year, Neeley said, it still faces a shortage of workers. Flint currently has six laborers and nine NSO officers for the full 30 miles of the City of Flint.
Neeley also encouraged residents to report people dumping in the city to Crimestoppers or the police. Crimestoppers will offer cash rewards up to one thousand dollars for tips that lead directly to an arrest, Lopez said.
Several residents urged a local ordinance to be adopted by the City Council that will require landlords to register and have their property inspected every three years. The ordinance will also correct a mistake in previous ordinances over which the City faced a lawsuit and which prevented it from doing inspections. Tips can be submitted at www.crimestoppersofflint.com
Three new testing sites for COVID-19
Flint is ramping up coronavirus testing with three new testing sites. Testing will be conducted at:
— Bethel United Methodist Church on 1309 Ballenger Hwy on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.
— Macedonia Baptist Church on 5543 N Saginaw St. on Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 10 a.m to 3 p.m. and
— Word of Life Church on 560 W Atherton on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 12 noon to 6 p.m.
“We must go get tested to make sure we’re taking the best precautions not to spread this virus,” Neeley said.
FNU and city officials highlight importance of the census
Several FNU groups and Mayor Neeley stressed the importance of filling out the Census forms in 2020. The Census is scheduled to end Sept. 30, giving Flint residents fewer than 20 days to be counted.
“This represents about $3 billion for out local community,” Neeley said. “Money for Medicaid, Medicare, schools, and public safety. Right now, 1 in 5 have not filled out their forms.”
For any residents with questions regarding the Census or any other topic, on Thursday Neeley will be hosting Conversations in the Courtyard. . The talk will be held in an open-air space with staff taking all necessary COVID safety precautions. To schedule an appointment call (810) 766-7346.
Placemaker program finding new ways to expand under COVID
Kady Yellow, director of placemaking for downtown Flint, gave a presentation on the Porch Project, a placemaking project on the North and Eastside of Flint.
She explained placemaking attempts to take underutilized or blighted spaces and to use them to promote community engagement through art and recreation.
She noted placemaking is not new in Flint. The Flint Farmers Market and Chevy Commons are two nationally recognized examples of the concept, according to Yellow.
The Porch Project uses “porch repairs, increased lighting, and beautification through things like flowers to increase neighborliness,” Yellow said.
Through this project, Yellow organized Porch Fest, where people could use their porches and vacant lots in their neighborhoods as venues where bands could play, activities could be held, and visual art displayed.
She said the programming is entirely decided upon by the residents in the community, where people can pick what goes on their porch.
The project was deemed a success because of high community engagement and utilization of space, with places like Brush Alley receiving grants for beautification, she said.
Now Yellow is partnering with the Neighborhood Engagement Hub (NEH) to bring Porch Fest to other parts of the city.
“We’re really lucky in Flint, we’ve got gorgeous spaces: the parks, the alleys, already are just perfectly prepared to bring people in,” she said. People can go to www.whatsup-downtown.com for info on placemaking programs in downtown Flint.
EVM Staff Writer Coner Segren can be reached at email@example.com.