Workers replace a water service line in Flint, Mich.

Flint, MI– The Flint City Council voted to approve a $2.9 million contract to an engineering company to oversee the remaining excavation and restoration work for the city’s service line replacement project.

After multiple postponements, the council approved the resolution to enter into a contract with Rowe Professional Services during their regular meeting on April 11. 

City officials told the council in previous meetings that approving this contract for project management services was the first step in getting several thousand homes restored. 

The project to excavate and replace lead and galvanized steel service lines was initially supposed to be completed in 2019 per a settlement agreement between Flint Pastors, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the National Resources Defense Council against the state of Michigan and the city of Flint. 

That didn’t happen, and the work has since been pushed to 2020, 2021, and 2022. As a result, the council recently voted to approve an amendment extending the deadline to Dec. 31, 2022.

To get the work done, officials told the council they first needed a contract with Rowe for project management services. They said Rowe could provide necessary input on the bid process for contractors doing the physical work. 

“They have some familiarity with the specs, with the requirements for the contractors,” City Administrator Clyde Edwards said in a meeting on March 28. “So we wanted them involved in the process as we make those selections so that we would get the best qualified people providing the best service to our residents.”

Rowe first entered into a contract with the city of Flint in 2019 for $2,138,735 to provide the project management services. In April of 2021, the Flint City Council approved a $500,000 contract extension for Rowe to continue those services, bringing the contract amount up to $2,638,735.

But restorations came to a halt in September of 2021, when Goyette Mechanical, the company completing the restorations, expended all of their funds with several thousand restorations left to do. 

City officials have told the council that there are about 8,500 addresses that still need their yards and sidewalks restored after being excavated. Department of Public Works Director Mike Brown has also told the council that there are 2,500 homes that have not had their service lines checked. 

This contract has been delayed by the council since February, as some members have voiced concerns about the cost and the fact that project management services were coming before a plan for the actual physical services.

With the postponements, officials warned that the city may lose out on the funding source for the contract if the project isn’t completed this year.

The Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) funding, which is where the money for the project is coming from, expires Dec. 31, 2022, officials said.

“Whatever monies we don’t spend, we lose,” said Department of Public Works Director Mike Brown during the council’s finance committee meeting on March 24.

During the meeting on April 11, some council members decided the contract had been delayed enough.

“This has been an agenda for a long time. We need to move forward on the service line replacements,” Councilman Quincy Murphy said. 

Councilwoman Eva Worthing said the contract should have never been delayed.

“This is a continuation of a project that started before most of you got on council,” Worthing said. “It should have been a simple vote, but nothing simple on this council.”

But some council members still had questions about it. 

Councilwoman Tonya Burns said she sent 17 questions to the administration months ago and hasn’t received an answer.

“And one of my most basic questions, which this administration has not answered, was how many service lines have been replaced and how many have been excavated since Jan. 1 2020? They failed to answer that,” Burns said. “If you can’t answer that, we have some serious problems.”

Councilman Eric Mays said this resolution hadn’t been “properly vetted.” 

“You got 8,500 restorations and then another 2,500 for a total … of about 11,000 restorations, and they ain’t put it out for bid yet,” Mays said. “And they tried to convince this council to approve $2.9 million for the engineering firm, and you know what restoration is? Fixing a sidewalk, a street, and planting some grass.”

By the time this resolution came for a vote, it was after midnight and the officials from the administration had left the meeting, so no one was there to answer questions. 

The council ultimately voted 5-3 to approve the contract. Councilwoman Ladel Lewis, Murphy, Councilwoman Judy Priestley, Councilwoman Allie Herkenroder, and Worthing voted yes. Mays, Burns, and Councilman Dennis Pfeiffer voted no. Councilwoman Jerri Winfrey-Carter had left the meeting by this time and was not present for the vote.

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...