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Flint, MI– When the city announced it would be shutting off water for residents who do not have their meters replaced, the Flint City Council had concerns about residents having to let people into their homes during a pandemic.
While the administration assured the council that employees would be wearing masks to change the meters, some residents are saying that has not been the case.
During the special city council meeting on Jan. 25, Flint resident Chelsea Brown told the council that the previous Friday, a man came to her house to change her meter without a mask on.
“They came in, but he didn’t have the proper PPE on. So I was nervous,” Brown said.
City Treasurer Amanda Trujillo explained to the council on Jan. 10, that residents with outdated meters would be receiving notices asking them to make an appointment to get the meter replaced. If within two weeks, the resident does not schedule an appointment, their water will be shut off, and the resident will have to pay a reconnection fee to get their water turned back on.
“I just want to emphasize that the goal is not to turn people off. We want to change their meter. That is the goal,” Trujillo said.
She said the process of replacing the meters takes about 15 to 20 minutes, but many council members said they thought that with the surge in COVID-19 cases, this was the wrong time to be shutting off people’s water.
Brown isn’t the only resident council has heard of feeling unsafe with the employees coming to change their meters.
“This is not the time to even be going into people’s homes, changing out meters, and particularly our senior population,” said Councilwoman Jerri Winfrey-Carter. “I have senior citizens in my ward, and they do not want anyone coming into their homes right now.”
Councilwoman Tonya Burns said she has sent City Administrator Clyde Edwards two emails requesting the written policy which states employees must wear proper personal protective equipment before entering homes, but has not gotten a response.
“They are entering homes without masks, booties on their feet. …These are mistakes that you cannot come back from, and going into seniors’ homes to change meters is not acceptable, not wearing a mask,” Burns said at a meeting on Jan. 24.
Councilwoman Ladel Lewis said she had also heard from residents about workers coming into their homes without wearing the proper equipment–no mask, or only a cloth mask, no gloves, and no foot protection.
Lewis said she has sent a letter to Edwards on behalf of the second ward, urging the administration not to shut off water during this time.
“After hearing from my constituents, I would be remiss not to plead on their behalf. First, we are still in the middle of a pandemic. With the surge of the Omicron variant, our residents need water for sanitation purposes,” she said, reading her letter during the meeting on Jan. 25. “Next, the city of Flint should do everything necessary to ensure the city representatives allowed into our residents’ homes are wearing the proper PPE.”
Lewis said that “many residents have compromised immune systems, making them vulnerable to unhealthy outcomes.”
“As they attempt to stay home and stay safe, it is our duty to guarantee that we are not a liability to their health,” she said.
During the meeting on Jan. 24, Edwards said the city had a policy in place requiring employees to wear masks, but would look into the issue.