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Legal action looms as Flint city council balks again at approving tap water contract

A sign that says "City of Flint Municipal Center"
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Flint city council members say they need more information before they can approve the agreement with the Great Lakes Water Authority. The 30-year deal is part of a broader agreement addressing Flint's water crisis.  The council did approve a three month extension of the current contract instead.  

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver expressed frustration during the meeting. The mayor insists the council had all the information it needed to approve the agreement. 

“It’s frustrating when you work hard and things get delayed,” says Weaver, “and we know it’s going to cost the city of Flint.”

The Flint city councildelayed a vote on the agreement for another two weeks.   

However, the issue may end up in a courtroom before then.

Lawyers for the state of Michigan gave the council until last night to approve the agreement or face legal action. With the council’s non-decision, the state is now expected to file a motion with a federal judge as early as today.

The city of Flint is under pressure from federal and state regulators who insist the city have a dedicated source of drinkable tap water. Flint’s drinking water was contaminated with lead after the ill-fated decision to switch its source to the Flint River. 

The city’s current water contract ends at the end of June.

The water will continue to flow to Flint from the Great Lakes Water Authority.  However, the cost of that water could rise sharply.

John Young has been working with the mayor’s office as a consultant on the water contract. He says the city the council’s non-action could result in additional costs of $600,000 a month.   

“It’ll be about a $10 million hole in the water department budget,” says Young, “How that hole is filled, there are several options, one of which is obviously raising water rates.”

Still, a majority of Flint city council remain adamant. 

Council President Kerry Nelson says Flint residents have been telling them for weeks that they don’t like this deal. Nelson says he’s heard from 345 constituents from his ward alone.

“I would be a fool to go against 345 people in my ward,” says Nelson.

All Flint city council members appear to be well aware that they are up for reelection this year.   

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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