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Flint city council complains "fix was in" on Detroit water contract

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

Flint city council members say the “fix was in” for months before a deal to keep the city on tap water from Detroit was made public.

Councilwoman Kate Fields says she’s obtained an email from a consultant showing the deal with the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) was set in February, months before it was announced to the public in April. 

In the email, consultant John Young asks GLWA CEO Sue McCormick to look over an outline of “Flint’s Future Water Sources” that he’s sending to the governor’s office. The outline spells out that GLWA would be Flint’s primary tap water source, and the Genesee County Drainage Commission would be the city’s backup drinking water source. The outline also addresses other key components of Flint’s water deal.

Flint city council members have long complained that Gov. Rick Snyder and Mayor Karen Weaver excluded them from the contract talks.

“These actions are abuses of power at its best and colonialism at its worst,” says Fields.

Credit steve carmody / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
“I don’t know where people think water’s going to come from, but it’s only going to come from either Great Lakes or KWA. People seem to be missing that point,” says Flint Mayor Karen Weaver.

Despite legal threats from the state, the council has balked at the dealthat would commit the city to a 30-year contract with GLWA. The council had until June 26 to approve the deal.  Instead, it voted to extend the current contract three more months.     

The state Department of Environmental Quality recently filed a complaint with a federal court, contending the city council’s refusal to approve the 30-year contract places the health of Flint residents at risk.

Flint has been getting its tap water from GLWA since October, 2015. The switch to GLWA came after revelations of high lead levels in the waterand other problems related the decision to draw the city’s tap water from the Flint River.    

The original idea was to use the river while the new Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA)  pipeline was built from Lake Huron to Genesee County.  

Even after the switch to GLWA, the plan remained to hook up Flint to the KWA pipeline. Then in April, Mayor Weaver announced a deal had been struck to keep Flint on the GLWA. But the council’s resistance is threatening that plan.

Weaver says the same people who didn’t want the city to switch to the KWA pipeline are now blocking the move to GLWA.

“I don’t know where people think water’s going to come from, but it’s only going to come from either Great Lakes or KWA. People seem to be missing that point,” says Weaver.

As for the council’s complaints about being shut out of the GLWA contract talks, Weaver insists council members were initially part of the negotiations. She says Council President Kerry Nelson and Councilman Eric Mays attended one meeting last year of all the parties involved in Flint’s water source talks.  

Weaver says one of the councilmen got into a heated exchange during a meeting with the governor. She says the governor’s security detail became involved. Weaver declined to identify the councilman.

Councilman Eric Mays says he was at the meeting and admits being involved in a “heated” exchange. Mays is well-known for his ‘spirited’ and often confrontational exchanges during city council meetings and public events, where he often clashes with other elected leaders, government officials and even members of the public.

Mays says he doesn’t remember the incident at last year’s meeting with the governor in attendance needing an intervention by the governor’s security detail.  

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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