Flint, MI — Residents showed up for public comment during the Flint City Council meeting on April 10, 2023, to share experiences caused by Pump Station #5 failing to manage all of the water and wastewater from the storms and river flooding last week.

“Everything that goes down the toilet is in my basement,” Flint resident Sherdon Johnson said. Johnson was among several residents who spoke about issues related to backups after heavy rains.

William Harris, who is Vice Chairman of the Ethics and Accountability Board, said he was appalled by the city’s response to Johnson and others sharing that they had sewage in their basement and not getting the help they needed.

Entrice Mitchell, the Sewer System Supervisor in Flint, spoke during a discussion period.

He said the pump was working fine and it was not a failure. The pump sits at two feet, but the water from last week’s rain was at ten feet.

“The water pollution control center took on 100 million gallons, it’s capable of processing 30 million gallons,” he said. “So the system itself just could not keep up with the water and the rainfall that was taking place.”

Councilman Quincy Murphy said he was sorry for Councilwoman Ladel Lewis, because he said she received a lot of hate online for not being as responsive to residents reaching out to her.

“I just want to apologize to you on behalf of the hate that you had to get over the weekend that went on Facebook about, ‘you should have done more as a councilperson,'” Murphy said.

Lewis, whose constituents were affected by the sewage failure, was out of town for the weekend and said she wasn’t around her phone as much.

“Unfortunately, I have no control over an act of God, nor do I have any resources to come into the home of residents to fix anything,” she said. “What my job is, is to make sure you have the resources and the numbers to call to get the answers that you need.”

Lewis said that as a councilperson, she has control over moving money and passing ordinances. However, she said it might be a good idea to look at installing backflow check valves for residents so this doesn’t happen again.

Councilman Dennis Pfeiffer agreed with Lewis’ idea to install check valves.

Councilwoman Tonya Burns said Lewis’ response was not compassionate to the people who are dealing with issues in their homes.

“You don’t become condescending, arrogant and confrontational to people who come in and tell us their issues,” she said. “We’re supposed to be compassionate.”

What else happened at the meeting

The meeting also included the approval of neighborhood area demolitions and the approval of funding for a cold case unit.

The resolution for a cold case unit was postponed from Council’s March 27 meeting, which was adjourned early due to lack of quorum.

The cold case unit resolution, which was passed through the consent agenda on April 10, allocates $350,000 to a unit through the Flint Police Department for solving cold cases that are homicides.

According to agenda documents, the new unit will hire two previously retired detectives with $100,000, an intel analyst for $35,000, and a polygraph examiner for $25,000.

It has also allocated $5,000 for laptops, $2,500 for cellphones and $48,000 for DNA testing. Also, $25,000 is allocated for travel, $10,000 for training and $100,000 for expert witnesses, technology and office equipment.

The cold case unit will be established between April 1, 2023 and April 1, 2026.

Confusion over an appointment

Council voted to send the appointment of Bishop Roger L. Jones, Sr. to the Hurley Board of Hospital Managers back to the Governmental Operation Committee because there was confusion over whether or not Jones wanted to be appointed.

Councilman Eric Mays said he talked to Jones and it wasn’t clear if he wanted to be reappointed or not.

“Bishop Jones told me out of his mouth, he ain’t really interested in this position,” Mays said.

More discussion needed on funding the Office of Public Health

Council voted to send a funding resolution for the Office of Public Health back to its Special Affairs Committee.

The resolution recommended funding of up to $300,000 for the office to continue providing the following:

  • Access to public health resources
  • Direct navigation for city residents to community resources on a case-by-case basis
  • Continuance of lead mitigation services including distribution of water filtration systems
  • Conducting distribution of test kits for Lead and Copper Rule testing
  • Expanding the scope of work to include public health intitiatives that focus on equity, environmental jusice, food policy, mental health, substance abuse and more

The Office of Public Health’s funding has been in limbo since late 2022, when a resolution asking for financing the office for all of 2023 was amended to provide funding for just its first quarter operations.

Grant, purchase, appointment, and contract approvals

Council approved a resolution that accepts a grant from the State of Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy for $20 million. This money will go toward enhancements to the Avon Pumping station, the Battery B Grit Flow Control, Electrical Distribution Improvements and Waste Unloading Station.

Council approved a resolution allowing for an additional $41,097 purchase of electrical materials and services for the Fire Department Training Room upgrades. This brings the grand total for electrician services in various city buildings to $489,602.

Council approved a resolution allowing for an additional $45,000 for the supply of Aqueous Ferrous Chloride to Water Pollution Control. Ferrous Chloride is used to remove phosphorus from wastewater. This brings the grand total to $185,000.

Council approved a resolution for an additional $108,936.12 for the contract with the Genesee County Youth Corporation for shelter operations, bringing the grand total to $565,309.12.

Council approved a resolution for a $1.5 million contract with the Genesee County Land Bank Authority for demolishing publicly-owned properties in Flint’s previously identified Choice Neighborhoods initiative.

Council also approved resolutions and appointments through its consent agenda, which included the following:

  • Council approved a resolution allowing a $500,000 contract with Wade Trim, Inc. for engineering services for the Waste Unloading Project.
  • Council approved a resolution allowing for a $500,000 contract with Wade Trim, Inc. for engineering services for the Battery B Secondary Clarifier Flow Control Project.
  • Council approved a resolution accepting a $1 million grant from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources for the St. John Street Neighborhood Memorial and the Flint River Trail.
  • Council approved a resolution authorizing a $40,000 purchase order for repairs to the Water Service Center jet-vac vehicles.
  • Council approved a resolution allowing for the purchase of four service vehicles for the fire department with a budget of $197,780.
  • Council approved a resolution for a $200,000 contract with Wade Trim, Inc. for engineering services for the Avon Pump Station Project.
  • Council approved a $325,000 agreement between city officials and Dearborn National Life Insurance Company to continue to provide short-term disability and life insurance coverage through March 1, 2025.
  • Council approved a resolution to allow for a $525.353.61 purchase of a combination sewer truck from Fredrickson Supply LLC for the Water Service Center.
  • Council approved the reappointment of Robert V. Jewell to the Flint Planning Commission, starting March 23, 2023 and ending March 23, 2026.
  • Council approved the reappointment of Matthew Telliga to the Zoning Board of Appeals to start immediately and to expire March 31, 2026.
  • Council approved the appointment of Micah Hutchinson to the Ethics and Accountability Board for the remainder of the six-year term that she is currently filling a vacancy for, which ends June 26, 2026.

Council also voted to indefinitely postpone a resolution that would have authorized a public hearing on an amendment to the rules governing meetings of the Flint City Council.

Sophia is Flint Beat's City Hall reporter. She joins the team after previously reporting for the Livingston Daily and the Lansing State Journal, along with some freelance work with The New York Times....

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