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Flint officials say paperwork, weather explain missed property restoration deadline

sign that says flint
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Paperwork and winter weather apparently prevented the city of Flint from meeting a deadline for a report on restoring property damaged by the city’s lead pipe replacement projects.

The city of Flint has inspected more than 27,000 service lines since 2016. More than 10,000 lead and galvanized pipes have been replaced. Service lines were a primary source of lead in Flint’s tap water during the city’s water crisis.

But the excavation work rips up lawns and damages sidewalks. Some Flint residents have waited years for their property to be repaired.

In February, a federal judge gave the city until May 1 to identify where restoration work remains undone. After the city missed that deadline, attorneys representing Flint residents filed a motion to hold the city and Mayor Sheldon Neeley in contempt.

On Friday, project manager Jeff Markstrom told the judge they didn’t start visually inspecting addresses until May 10, partially because they needed snow on lawns to melt.

“The city is a sophisticated actor. It agreed to this May 1 deadline with the full knowledge of how weather works in the state of Michigan, and what’s required to check to and see if a lawn has been fixed; if a sidewalk has been fixed,” said Addie Rolnick, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Adding to the delay, crews could not begin visual inspections until the language to appear on door hangers to inform property owners about the inspection was agreed to.

As of June 22, the city has identified 5,006 addresses, either visually or in paperwork, that still need sidewalks repaired, driveways repaved or lawns resowed.

There are also another 704 addresses that the plaintiffs claim have yet to be inspected.

At the end of Friday’s hearing, U.S. District Court Judge David Lawson gave the two sides until later this month to file their final arguments on the contempt motion. A ruling may come by the end of the month.

Meanwhile, the city of Flint is facing a deadline to complete the lead pipe replacement project. While city officials remain confident, activists worry it will just be another deadline Flint will miss.

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.
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