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Flint city council narrowly approves 30-year contract with Great Lakes Water Authority

steve carmody
Michigan Radio/NPR

Last night, the Flint city council voted five to four to approve a 30-year contract with the Great Lakes Water Authority.

The contract to provide Flint with drinking water has been held up since April by city council members worried about rising water bills under the deal. But most of those councilmen lost their seats in this month’s election.

The new city council members faced not only the daunting task of trying to understand a lengthy, technical contract just weeks after winning election.   They also faced a federal judge demanding they make a decision.

At a hearing Monday, U.S. District Judge David Lawson gave the Flint city council only until Tuesday night to make a decision on the contract. The council voted just before 11 p.m. last night.

Many residents who attended last night’s meeting urged the council to reject the deal. But sitting in the front row during last night’s four-hour meeting was the contract’s biggest supporter, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver.

“You can’t please everybody,” says Weaver, “but we know we made the best decision as far as public health and being fiscally responsible.”

The council’s approval opens the door to millions of federal dollars to repair Flint’s water infrastructure. That money has been held up while the city’s long-term drinking water source remained in doubt.   

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.