By Tom Travis
In an 8-0 vote the City Council Monday approved a one-year contract for $1,150,650 with compliance firm Ernst & Young for the disbursement of the $94 million American Rescue Plan (ARP) stimulus money. Councilperson Dennis Pfeiffer had left after the Special Affairs committee and was not present for the vote.
Ernst & Young will assist the city in assuring it meets the criteria for using the ARP funds. Guidelines have been detailed by the federal government but leave some room for interpretation.
At Monday’s meeting the City’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Robert Widigan presented, as requested by council, a revised two-year proposed contract with Ernst & Young.
After some council members including Council President Eric Mays (Ward 1) and Councilperson Jerri Winfrey-Carter (Ward 5) said they would support a one-year contract but not a two-year contract, a consensus was met. The council members agreed to approve a one-year contract with the possibility of additional years if needed.
Compliance firm contract goes from $3.9 million to $1.1 million
In November 2021 the City administration presented a proposal for a five-year contract totaling nearly $4 million, a savings of over $2.7 million from the original proposal.
In a November 2021 council meeting CFO Widigan explained that the city’s finance department vetted each firm that bid for compliance contract with a series of questions and a deadline of Oct. 18 to answer. According to Widigan, eight of the firms responded by the deadline and one firm responded a day late on Oct. 19, their bid was not considered in the final bid process. The eight bids considered ranged from $590,000 to $7.5 million, as presented in October 2021.
The approved one-year contract with Ernst & Young will be paid for with the $94 million federal ARPA funds. The contract will allow for additional years to be added if needed. Contracts for the additional years, if needed, will cost as follows: Year 2 – $884,380, Year 3 – $738,025, Year 4 – $627,494 and Year 5 – $593,525.
The additional years are not yet contracted and will only be added with the approval of city council and if it is deemed necessary. The resolution states that the total contract cannot exceed $2,035,030. According to City Attorney Angela Wheeler the contract can be terminated anytime by the City Administrator.
Council “celebrates” working together
Several city council members “celebrated” that the council could all work together and compromise to reach a decision.
Finance Committee Chairperson Tonya Burns said, “Tonight was really good that we worked together to get something through instead of just talking. We took action. So we can begin to see the ARPA dollars being dispersed in the community….Tonight was good. It showed us working together cohesively.”
Widigan assured the council that there will be “shared data, transparency. If you want a meeting with Ernst & Young we will set it up,” Widigan assured the council.
Tonya Burns, Finance Committee chairperson said she is for a one year contract. “If they’re doing a great job then why wouldn’t we retain them.” Burns made an amendment to the two year contract present to the council by the City administration to a one year contract.
Young visitor assists Council President Mays
At the beginning of the council meeting Council President Eric Mays (Ward 1) invited nine-year-old Dylan Brown to sit with him and to assist Mays while conducting the meeting. Brown led the council in the pledge of allegiance.
Brown was attending the council meeting with his mother, Chelesia Brown who lives in the third ward. Brown’s mother explained that her son is very active in the community already at such a young age.
He regularly collects items for an organization called Well of Hope which aims to serve impoverished communities in Flint, according to their Facebook page.
EVM Managing Editor Tom Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org