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Federal judge denies Flint city council more time to consider future water source

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

A federal judge has denied the Flint city council’s request for more time to decide on a long-term water source for the city.

U.S. District Judge David Lawson’s 18-page ordercriticizes many of the city council’s arguments requesting more time to review a 30-year contract with the Great Lakes Water Authority.

In his order, Lawson suggests the council’s possible solutions may have the effect of making Flint’s budget situation worse.

“The administration suggests that the delay caused by the stay City Council seeks would be the last brick on the road to Flint’s bankruptcy. The evidence indicates that its assessment may be accurate.”

Credit steve carmody / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Flint Mayor Karen Weaver says the city remains in "limbo" without a long-term water contract.

The city council’s main objection focused on potential rate increases for Flint water customers. Flint residents already pay some of the highest water bills in the nation. Under the proposed 30-year agreement, rates would likely rise 2% to 4% annually.

Lawson issued his ruling as the Flint city council was meeting in a special session to approve a 30-day extension of its temporary contract with the Great Lakes Water Authority. The council previously proposed a two-year extension of the contract.

The GLWA board meets on Monday, where it will likely consider the 30-day extension. 

The order may open the door for the 30-year water contract between the city and GWLA. But the path to that remains unclear. The agreement, originally announced last spring, expired in September.  

Also, the city council’s legal fight may not be over.     

“In talking to our attorneys, I wasn’t surprised that the motion was going to be denied,” says Scott Kincaid, a Flint city councilman. “But we are looking at all of our options including ... a possible appeal.”

The judge’s decision is a win for Flint’s mayor, who has been pushing for a 30-year contract with the Great Lakes Water Authority.

But Mayor Karen Weaver says Flint remains in “limbo” without a contract in place.  

“Where are we now? What do we do?” Weaver asks. “We’re doing month-to-month (contracts with GLWA) still. That’s draining on the city financially. And we’re losing money.”

Attorneys for the city of Flint and the state are reviewing the judge’s order. 

Flint city attorney Angela Wheeler declined to discuss conversations she’s had today with her counterparts at MDEQ and GLWA in the wake of the judge’s order. 

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.