By Tom Travis
City’s acting-Chief Financial Officer, Amanda Trujillo, gives a budget report to council
Amanda Trujillo, the city’s acting-Chief Financial Officer and City Treasurer, was on the line to take questions from council concerning the city budget at Monday’s Flint City Council meeting. Trujillo said expenditures are “under budget” and explained that since the city’s hiring freeze in May 2020, the city is “understaffed” because open positions in various departments are not being filled.
Asked for further detail on those staff issues, City of Flint Communications Director Marjory Raymer responded in an email that “The City of Flint has a number of vacant positions. The number fluctuates all the time based on new hires and new retirements and resignations. Vacancies are common, and it was brought up [by Trujillo at the meeting] to directly address budget to actuals as one reason actual spending less than budgeted in some areas.
“The City of Flint has made significant progress in filling vacancies over the last year. Our efforts have been somewhat hampered by COVID-19, but the City plans to continue filling vacancies as much as possible,” Raymer said. She did not provide specific numbers of unfilled positions or departments affected.
In June 2020 the city council adopted a $73 million budget. The City of Flint’s 2020-2021 budget can be viewed here.
Community Policing and Neighborhood Safety Officers funded by $210,000 grant
A Blight Elimination and Community Policing grant from The Ruth Mott Foundation was approved 8-0; Councilperson Eva Worthing (9th Ward) had left the meeting by the time of the vote.
The ordinance explained, “The Police Foundation was awarded the Enhanced and Integrated Blight Elimination and Community Policing grant to provide services to the citizens residing in the City of Flint neighborhoods. This grant includes increasing community involvement in blight elimination with the assistance of the City of Flint’s Neighborhood Safety Officers.”
The one-year $210,000 grant, which had been allocated by the Ruth Mott Foundation last February, includes $97,000 for the City of Flint Police Department to cover existing Neighborhood Safety Officers (NSO).
City of Flint Parks Master Plan
A resolution recommending adoption of a five-year update to the parks master plan was approved 8-0.
The ordinance stated, “The City of Flint Planning Division has engaged with City of Flint residents through a series of community meetings, planning meetings, and visioning sessions throughout 2018 and 2019 in order to update the 2013-2017 City of Flint Parks and Recreation Plan.
“After public input was gathered, staff prepared a Parks Master Plan update that outlines planning and project priorities for the next five years. Planning and Zoning staff were responsible for the community engagement and this information is detailed on pages 44-46 of the Plan.
“This update is in alignment with the Imagine Flint Master Plan, and will allow the City to pursue Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) grants in accordance with MDNR requirements as stated in the ‘Guidelines for the Development of Community Park, Recreation, Open Space and Greenway Plans,’ as well as establish a basis for other funding opportunities.”
The Parks Plan is available here. The Parks Plan is a five-year plan and contains updates from the 2013-17 Park Plan. Raymer added in her email, “[The Parks Plan] provides information on the benefits of an active parks system for a healthy community.”
“[The Parks Plan] provides maps and charts identifying all of the parks in the City and identifies responsibilities for maintenance and upkeep (including the community partnerships that exist to take care of the parks). An action plan also outlines goals and specific action steps to achieve those goals as well as a list of completed projects.
“The City’s Planning Division of the Planning and Development Department will lead the implementation in coordination with Neighborhood Planning staff and in partnership with multiple community partners. These community partnerships are also highlighted in the Parks Plan,” stated Raymer in her email.
“Residents will see a continued commitment to parks as a way to build healthy communities and implementation of the vision they helped create. In addition, the Plan makes it possible to apply for funding from the MDNR from multiple programs,” added Raymer.
Water main breaks and the DPW
Councilperson Monica Galloway (7th Ward) asked City Administrator Clyde Edwards if there was an acting DPW (Department of Public Works) director and where people can call if they have a water main break in their area.
According to the City of Flint Communications Director Marjory Raymer, the former DPW Director Rob Bincsik “voluntarily retired” in late 2020. She did not say why.
The job posting is online at www.cityofflint.com/jobs
“The DPW director position previously went unfilled for more than two years after Howard Croft resigned in November 2015.“Boil water advisories have been and continue to be issued by the water distribution supervisor, a specially licensed City employee for 25 years. The proper process and procedures are in place to ensure residents are quickly and properly informed. Any necessary boil water advisories have been and will continue to be issued immediately,” Raymer said.
Edwards explained the city has begun a search for a replacement DPW director, adding the position has been posted but “we have not received any feedback yet.”
Edwards acknowledged the city had three water main breaks over the weekend. He informed the council and the public that if there is a water main break residents can call (810) 766-7202 to report the emergency. Edwards clarified the city is in full compliance with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE)
Council Committee meetings to resume
Council voted 9-0 to begin conducting committee meetings again. Early on in the pandemic the council ceased committee meetings in an effort to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus on behalf of the City Clerk’s staff who have to do a lot of in-person preparations for the meetings.
In recent months more council members have been calling for committee meetings to resume because the council meetings have been extended into the late hours of the night and sometimes early morning hours debating and discussing agenda items. Many council members have suggested that if committee meetings were held some of those extended discussions could be held then.
Twice a month the Flint City Council meets in committee sessions. There are several committees that meet through out the year including Grants, Legislative, Special Affairs, and Governmental Operations committees. The purpose of committees is for the council to work through in a more detailed way the ordinances and resolutions before they are sent to the full city council for a vote.
Pierce Park update
Galloway also asked for an update on the clean up of Pierce Park after the arson in the Fall of 2020 that destroyed the community center. Edwards explained the bidding is open and 10 contractors have submitted. Edwards said the work will consist of “clean up where the fire burned down.”
Council’s bickering and squabbling continues
The City Council meetings in the new year have been accented by bickering and squabbling. Monday night, for example, the council spent the first two hours arguing about rules and procedures.
Finally at twenty-minutes before 8 p.m. the public comment began. Despite the chaotic atmosphere of the opening of the meeting the council did get down to city business. The meeting on Monday lasted eight hours into the early morning hours of Tuesday ending at 1:30 a.m.
EVM Managing Editor Tom Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.