Flint, MI – During the Flint City Council meeting on March 13, council voted to purchase a new fire truck, rename West Boulevard Park and allocate money to the rehabilitation of Saginaw Street’s bricks.
The meeting, which lasted about three and a half hours, used council’s new rules adopted on Feb. 27.
Under the new rules, council was able to vote on a “consent agenda,” meaning the council could vote on minutes, communications, appointments, resolutions, licenses and ordinances in just one vote with no discussion.
Last night, council used the consent agenda rule to pass nearly 20 agenda items with one vote and no discussion, only separating three items for further review.
The consent agenda passed 8-0, with Councilman Eric Mays absent at the time of the vote.
Here’s what else happened at the body’s March 13 meeting:
No raise for Flint’s city administrator
At council’s prior Feb. 27 meeting, City Administrator Clyde Edwards said he makes $99,000 a year. In a proposed new job description, the salary of the city administrator could be a minimum of $99,000 and a maximum of $150,000.
However, council voted the proposal down with a 6-3 vote. Councilwomen Allie Herkenroder, Eva Worthing and Judy Priestley all voted yes.
In discussion, Herkenroder made similar arguments to the last meeting, saying that if Flint is going to attract and retain talent in city positions, then it has to offer competitive salaries.
“We need to make sure that we are looking to the future for this city, and we need to continue to make sure that our wages reflect that,” she said.
Eddie Smith, the city’s Director of Human Resources, said it’s normal to look at job descriptions regularly to make sure they’re competitive.
“It’s not unusual to look at job descriptions each year,” he told the council.
However, most councilmembers were not supportive of the proposed change.
Councilman Quincy Murphy said he liked Edwards, but it was just “bad timing” because other city personnel should get pay raises first.
Mays echoed Murphy’s sentiment, saying it’s bad timing to get a raise so close to budget approval time. However, he also said that he doesn’t think Edwards has done a good enough job to get a $150,000 salary.
Councilwoman Tonya Burns also said she doesn’t think it’s a good time for the city administrator to ask for a raise.
“We should be taking care of the people first,” she said.
A ‘monthly allowance’ for Flint children
In the special affairs committee meeting that took place before the council meeting, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the pediatrician whose research is credited with helping expose the Flint water crisis, proposed the idea of an allowance for families with young children in Flint.
Hanna-Attisha said that the root of so many problems for kids is poverty because it affects health, education and more.
Flint is the poorest city in the state and there are areas where 80-100% of kids grow up in poverty, she said.
“We don’t have to just shrug our shoulders anymore,” Hanna-Attisha told councilmembers.
She said she’d like the city to give every pregnant mom and every child through their first year of life a monthly allowance. She suggested the allowance would be a one-time prenatal allowance of $1,500 and then a monthly allowance of $500 a month.
Pregnancy and infancy tend to be when a family is the poorest, she said, but it’s also when the child’s brain develops the most.
“If you had to pick a most critical time in the development of a child it’s that first year of life, and that’s when families are the most poor,” she said.
Hanna-Attisha added that an allowance could also increase civic engagement and might encourage people to stay in or move to Flint. It could also help boost the local economy by giving people more money to spend locally, she said.
Hanna-Attisha said she is in the process of submitting an ARPA application for such a program. To make it happen, she estimated she would need $10 million per year, proposing the city would participate for five years.
In response, Worthing shared a personal story, noting that her own kids had needed a special formula when they were young, costing $500 a month. She added that she was supportive of the idea.
Burns said people who live in poverty live with issues like paying for diapers, no money for school uniforms and no money for food.
“We have to invest in the children,” she said.
Saginaw Street brick project
In an update to the long-promised Saginaw Street brick rehabilitation, the council voted 8-0 to increase funding to the project. Mays abstained.
Flint’s Department of Public Works Director Michael Brown said the bricks on Saginaw Street in downtown Flint were first installed with trolleys in 1903. Then, the trolleys were removed in 1935 and new bricks were installed.
City Engineer Mark Adas added there was also some minor work done on the bricks in the 1970s.
Council approved an additional $683,000 for a total of $3,491,596 toward the rehabilitation of the Saginaw Street bricks.
Construction is expected to take place April through July.
West Boulevard Park renamed
Council voted 8-0, with Mays absent, to rename West Boulevard Park to St. John’s Memorial Park.
The original St. John Street neighborhood was largely demolished in the early 1970s to make way for Interstate-475. The demolition effectively displaced many Black and immigrant residents who lived in the neighborhood.
“We have to continue to advocate for Flint’s future while also honoring its past,” Herkenroder said.
The St. John’s Memorial Park project also recently received a $1 million development grant from the state. The funding will support improving trails, repaving over 3.5 miles of the Flint River Trail, building a new playground and parking lot and repairs to seven existing scenic river overlooks, according to a city press release.
Facelifts for Flint
During public speaking, LaBria Lane and Dione Freeman talked about their experience meeting at the farmers’ market and now working together on garden projects.
Lane is the owner of MarySam’s Gardens, a plant nursery in Burton, Mich. Over the past decade, she said she’s spent thousands of hours working on agricultural skills, providing plant materials for grocery stores, nonprofits and more.
Lane requested that as city council develops new and existing garden projects, they might reach out to her as a resource.
Freeman said she and Lane are working on “Facelifts for Flint,” a project that will do excavation and removal of blight and provide plant life in its place.
Priestley responded by saying she’s a big gardener and is hoping to get projects like this going in the fourth ward.
“We need flowers around the city. Nothing makes me happier than to look at my flowers,” she said.
Burns echoed Priestley’s sentiment, “flowers make you smile and they make you feel good,” she said.
Councilwoman Ladel Lewis said she is also working on projects like Lane and Freeman’s, and she is in the process of writing grant requests to support the work.
The rest of the agenda passed with a 8-0 vote, with Mays absent at the time of the vote:
- Council appointed Melinda Sol Wilson to the Downtown Development Authority Board for a four-year term.
- Council appointed Moses Timlin to serve on the Building Code Board of Appeals for a one-year term.
- Council approved $19,000 for engineering services for the Fenton Road Bridge over Thread Creek Project, making the overall contract amount not more than $203,850.
- Council approved a resolution for roof repair at the Oak Business Center for no more than $651,200.
- Council approved a resolution for a contract with Tetra Tech of Michigan, PC for engineering services for the Water Pollution Control Electrical Distribution Upgrade project for not more than $815,000.
- Council approved a change order to the Park Partnership Agreement between the city and Genesee County Parks and Recreation Commission to allocate $500,000 for maintenance of city parks.
- Council approved a resolution that allows changes to the Fiscal Year 2023 Operating Budget for the city’s Fleet Services Division for $3 million.
- Council approved a $755,000 contract with the Flint Fire Department for the purchase of a new fire truck.
- Council approved a $30,000 addition to a contract with My Brother’s Keeper of Genesee County, for a new total of $333,307, and to extend the contract until Sept. 8, 2023. The contract is for homeless shelter operations and essential services, the additional funds will go toward staffing costs.
- Council approved a $100,000 contract with the Flint Fire Department for the purchase of fire protective equipment.
- Council approved a $97,000 addition to a contract with Carriage Town Ministries, for a new total of $186,595, and to extend the contract through Sept. 8, 2023. The contract is for homeless shelter operations and essential services, the additional funds will go toward a facility generator.
- Council approved a resolution that authorizes a $6,500 purchase order to Onix Networking Corporation for Google Workspace Licensing and an overall Fiscal Year 2023 grand total of not more than $103,556.
- Council approved a resolution that issues a $23,673 purchase order to Weinstein Electric Company for materials and supplies needed for panic button installation, also approved a grand total of $448,505 for electrician services in the 2023 Fiscal Year budget.
- Council approved a resolution allowing the purchase of a Heavy Rescue Fire Apparatus from Halt Fire, Inc. for not more than $818,580.
- Council approved a resolution allowing for the purchase of a Pumper Fire Apparatus from Halt Fire, Inc. for not more than $690,000.