Flint, MI – Monday’s nearly five-hour Flint City Council meeting had six members present and saw the approval of multiple contracts, an appointment, and funding for the city’s witness protection program.

Council President Allie Herkenroder, Council Vice President Ladel Lewis, and Councilwoman Eva Worthing were absent for the March 27, 2023 meeting.

The remaining councilmembers passed a consent agenda 6-0, which included all of the meeting’s agenda items except for two: an appointment to the Flint Planning Commission and funding for a cold case unit through the Flint Police Department.

Included in the consent agenda was a resolution allowing city officials to participate in the 2022 national settlements for the National Prescription Opiate Litigation for the City of Flint.

Kelly Ainsworth, project director at the Greater Flint Health Coalition (GFHC), said $8 million was allocated to Flint from three major opiate providers, which will be paid out over 18 years. She said GFHC is acting as an advisory group to help make recommendations for how to spend those funds.

Council voted separately to approve the re-appointment of current Planning Commission Chair Robert Wesley as a fifth ward representative. However, Councilmen Dennis Pfeiffer and Quincy Murphy left the meeting early, breaking quorum before a vote on the potential cold case unit and ending the meeting at 9 p.m.

Cold case unit: not passed, but supported

Though Pfeiffer and Murphy left while Councilman Eric Mays alleged discrimination toward him from resigning Chief Financial Officer Rob Widigan and Councilwoman Judy Priestley, during the prior Special Affairs Committee meeting, Pfeiffer expressed agreement with Mays’ take on the potential cold case unit.

Mays had said he wants the unit to investigate other crimes, like assault, as it currently would only investigate homicides. Mays said he planned to vote yes for the cold case unit but wanted another resolution in the future to work on other cases.

First Ward Councilman Eric Mays attends a Flint City Council meeting on Nov. 22, 2021, at City Hall. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

Pfeiffer said he agreed with Mays’ on the idea that the cold case unit should be an “all of the above” approach. He said his priority is to make Flint safer, and he and Murphy said they want Flint Police Chief Terence Green to come up with a safety plan for Flint.

“If we allocated money for the chief and he doesn’t come up with a plan, then guess what, it’s time for a new damn chief. We need results,” Pfeiffer said.

Although Green had told council during committee meetings last week that he would be present for the March 27 meeting, he was not there due to a scheduled vacation, according to Deputy Chief Jeff Antcliff.

Councilwoman Tonya Burns said she wants to make sure Green has the tools he needs to get the cold case unit going, as, in a prior meeting, Green confirmed to councilmembers that there were over 100 unsolved homicides in the city.

“I want to have closure for families who have wanted closure,” Burns said.

Witness Protection Program is a go

Council approved $300,000 in funding to go toward a witness protection program through the Genesee County Prosecutor’s Office.

At the Finance Committee meeting on March 22, Green said a witness is defined as someone who has pertinent information and is important to the case, using eye witnesses of a crime as an example. He said it’s the prosecutor who determines a witness’ status, though.

At the same meeting, Mays said it’s embarrassing that the money has not gone into the program yet, as he and other councilmembers expected the funding had been already been allocated through their approved American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) budget at a meeting on October 24, 2022.

Pfeiffer said funding the witness protection program will help get some of the city’s unsolved crimes solved because people will be more willing to come forward. He said that eventually there will be cold cases where people don’t come forward if there’s no protection for them.

Flint City Council member Dennis Pfeiffer speaks during a Flint City Council meeting at Flint City Hall on Monday, March 13, 2023. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)

Burns said that witnesses have contacted councilmembers before, asking about the program’s funding.

“Witnesses should never have to come to city council to speak to ask for help. That was so embarrassing to have a witness stand at the podium and state that they had not received any funds,” she said.

Everything else

In all, Council approved 10 resolutions and one appointment Monday night, all with a 6-0 vote. Here are the rest of the approvals:

  • Council approved an additional $55,500 for sodium hypochlorite, or bleach, from JCI Jones Chemicals, Inc., for a total of $105,500 for the Flint Water Plant.
  • Council approved an additional $59,000 for the supply of Phosphoric Acid from Shannon Chemical Corporation for the water plant, for an overall total of $159,000.
  • Council approved a $172,000 contract with Professional Service Industries, Inc. for lead inspection and risk assessor services.
  • Council approved a $261,160 contract with Rowe Professional Services Company for construction engineering services for the Fenton Road Bridge Project.
  • Council approved a resolution for Mach I Limited Dividend Housing Association LLC to include only Floral Park Lots 85 through 92 in the lease agreement for constructing a 38-space parking lot, refurbishing a basketball court and maintaining a green space for residents of Howard Estates Townhomes, located at 1802 Lapeer Rd.
  • Council approved a resolution allowing city officials to amend the budget now and in future years to operate the Office of Public Health, with funds paid from Flint’s American Rescue Plan Act dollars, with recommended funding of $300,000.
  • Council approved an additional $420,000 for water main engineering services in the Saginaw Street Bricks Rehabilitation project, making the grand total $1,249,680.
  • Council approved a $2,803,052.42 contract with L.A. Construction Company to replace the water main during the Saginaw Street Bricks Rehabilitation project between Court Street and the Flint River.

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....