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Legal motion asks judge to hold City of Flint in contempt over missed repair work deadline

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

The City of Flint could be found in contempt of court for failing to abide by a federal court deadline involving repairing damage done when replacing lead pipes.

Work crews have dug up thousands of lead service lines since the Flint water crisis. The work often involves breaking concrete sidewalks and ripping up lawns. Many complain work crews have done a poor job repairing the damage.

“It’s unacceptable that, even after we’ve come back to court several times and won, our officials are failing to finish the job,” said Melissa Mays, operations manager of Flint Rising.   

Plaintiffs, including Mays and the Concerned Pastors for Social Action, took the city to court over its pipe replacement program, resulting in a 2017 settlement agreement.

In February, the federal judge overseeing the settlement ordered the city to compile information on where restoration work remains undone. But the city missed the May 1 deadline.

Attorneys for the Natural Resources Defense Council have filed a motion asking the judge to find the city and mayor Sheldon Neeley in contempt of court.

“The City of Flint’s ongoing failures to finish the job it committed to in 2017 are causing new harms to the Flint community,” said Sarah Tallman, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, “Thousands of residents have waited — some for years — for the city to fix their torn-up lawns or broken sidewalks.”

The motion filed Friday also asks for a daily fine of $500 payable to the court until the city fixes its violations.

Mayor Neeley said the legal motion is counterproductive. “It’s unfortunate that the NRDC continues to divert time and resources from Flint residents, whose municipal services would be negatively impacted by these financial hits," he said.

In 2022, Flint centralized the oversight of excavation, replacement, and restoration activities under a single project management team. This month, Rowe Engineering doubled the crews working to assess all residential addresses for restoration needs. City officials expect this assessment to be completed within a matter of weeks.

Meanwhile, the City of Flint is facing a separate August deadline to complete the lead service line replacement project.

To date, the city has inspected more the 27,000 water service lines. More than 10,000 lead and galvanized steel pipes have been replaced. Service lines for 1,084 addresses have yet to be inspected. City officials say obtaining property owner permission to inspect the pipes remains an obstacle.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.