Flint, MI– In a six-hour special affairs committee meeting, the Flint City Council made four decisions.

Here’s what the council decided during the March 8 committee meeting:

  1. Moved a budget amendment to the next council meeting

The first agenda item was a budget amendment with three parts. 

The first part is the addition of $166,834.79 to the expenditures for blight management.

The second is the discontinuation of bank processing fees for online payments, an attempt to offer some relief for people having to pay bills online because of COVID-19.

The third part is a transfer of funds from wages to operating expenses for the maintenance department. This part does not include any additional funds, just a transfer. 

Council President Kate Fields said she couldn’t understand why any of her colleagues would not vote to move this to council.

“I would not understand someone voting against adding money to the general fund for blight management…and then the second one is to discuss the discontinuation of bank processing fees for online payments. So we’re basically, you know, not charging the citizens, these online banking fees, and therefore giving credit back for that, in a way,” Fields said. “And then the last one is just moving the line items from wages to supplies and professional services so I can’t see anything in that amendment that I personally would disagree with.”

But there were three council people who voted against it. 

Councilwoman Monica Galloway said that because of the lack of transparency with the blight department, she would not vote to move this budget amendment to council yet. 

“Since this administration has taken on, there’s been, for me…a confusing, understanding of the hierarchy of the blight department,” she said. “At one time it was under Suzanne [Wilcox], then it wasn’t under Suzanne, it was under Mr. [Duvarl] Murdock, and then it wasn’t under Mr. Murdock, he is in blight, he’s not in blight.”

Galloway said someone from the department should be able to convene with the council and give concrete details about what they need the money for. 

“There should be someone running the department that is able to get on with this council and say you know what, we had this, this, and this, we thought we needed this, we didn’t, we found out we needed more,” she said. “But there’s never that type of transparency.”

Councilman Eric Mays voted against moving the amendment to council, saying that they have been asking people to come to finance committee meetings to talk, and they haven’t been. 

Councilwoman Jerri Winfrey-Carter also voted against moving it to council, but with five yes votes, it passed. 

  1. Did not move $500,000 change order for Rowe Professional Services Co. contract to the next council meeting

Rowe requested additional funding to continue project management services for lead service line replacement. The company entered into a contract with the City on March 11, 2019 in an amount not to exceed $2,138,735. The project was supposed to be completed at the end of 2019.

Senior Project Manager Jeff Markstrom said one of the reasons there was a delay in completing the project was that they had to follow the recommendations and requirements of the National Resource Defense Council on which homes they could or could not explore.

“[This] did not allow the contractors to fully engage in a number of crews and really staff up,” he said. “We were restricted on which homes we could go to at the beginning. I believe it was September of 2019ish…when we were finally able to really allow the contractors to ramp up and start exploring other homes and getting into more parts of the city.”

Councilman Allan Griggs said someone else, perhaps the NRDC, should be paying the company a half a million dollars, not Flint. City Attorney Angela Wheeler said that would not happen because they sued the City. 

Markstrom also said COVID-19 was a factor in the delay. 

Councilwoman Monica Galloway asked why they needed more money if their work has ceased, and why they didn’t have leftover money. 

“How do we not have extra money? How are we getting here to where you need an extra $500,000? Because your work ceases, if their work ceases,” Galloway said. 

Markstrom said although their contractors are not out in the field, they still have to provide reports to the city and do various office administration and project management work. 

The council did not get enough votes to move this to the regular council meeting with four yes, three no, and one abstention. 

  1. Moved the City of Flint Brownfield Redevelopment Plan to the next council meeting

The plan involves renovating an existing building on 1809 James P. Cole Boulevard, and constructing a new building. 

According to the resolution, once the plan is approved, it will “allow the reimbursement of eligible project expenses from the additional tax revenue realized as a result of the redevelopment.” This reimbursement can occur over the life of the plan, and is estimated at $2,541,508.

There is not a specific planned use for what the building will be for, but City of Flint Director of Economic Development Khalfani Stephens said it is not unusual for a company to build a “spec building” because they believe that the market is strong enough that it will get filled. 

Councilman Griggs said this sounded like the “Field of Dreams.”

“Build it and they will come…I’m an engineer and, you know, I’m a little more exact in my business plans, and I’m not going to dole out two and a half million dollars in a city that’s hurting for money just because,” he said. 

Council President Fields said she remembers a similar thing happening in the fourth ward, where a company built a spec building, found a tenant, and then that business ended up bringing in 100 employees, many of whom she said she thought were Flint residents. 

“So it’s the kind of venture in terms of economic development, you’ve got to start somewhere,” she said. “And I think it’s, even though I’m sure it’s been thoroughly researched and the numbers have been run multiple times, it is a leap of faith to come invest in our community, and we talk all the time about the need for economic development.”

Councilman Maurice Davis said the council should be “embracing all economic opportunities.” 

With a vote of seven yes and one no from Councilman Griggs, the item was moved to the next regular council meeting. 

  1. Moved the appointment of Lisa M. Squier to the Board of Review to the next council meeting 

The council unanimously voted to move this resolution to approve the appointment of Lisa M. Squire, recommended by Council President Fields, to the Board of Review to the next council meeting. 

Squire is an educator, working on completing her PhD in Social Psychology. Squire would replace Clarence Campbell, whose term expired in December 2018, although he continued to serve on the Board until his resignation in November 2020. Squire would serve the remainder of a three-year term expiring on Jan. 1, 2022.

In addition, the city announced on March 9, two special council meetings to make up for not going into the regular council meeting on March 8. The first special meeting will be March 10 at 5:30 p.m. and the second special meeting will be March 15 at 5:30 p.m.

Amy Diaz is a journalist hailing from St. Petersburg, FL. She has written for multiple local newspapers in her hometown before becoming a full-time reporter for Flint Beat. When she’s not writing you...

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