DALLAS -- The Flint, Michigan city council is not backing down in its dispute with the state government, which has sued the city over its delay in approving a long-term water contract that was negotiated with Flint Mayor Karen Weaver.
Ninth Ward Councilman Scott Kincaid said the council is looking for an independent attorney that will allow it to voice its difference of opinion and wants more time to vet a 30-year water contract that has been supported by both Weaver and Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration.
Under the plan, the city would lose water rights to water supplied by the Karegnondi Water Authority, which is building a bond-financed pipeline from Lake Huron. That pipeline is expected to be operational by October 1st, according to Jeff Wright, Genesee County drain commissioner.
Kincaid said that the council needs more time to look at the terms of the longer term water contract and, if required, explore other options. Flint city council in June voted to extend the city’s water delivery contract with GLWA to September.
“The administration negotiated a contract and brought the contract to us five days before we were to vote on it and we postponed it so that we would have more opportunity to go through the contract,” he said. “When we didn’t approve it the state filed a lawsuit against the city council.”
"The law department is working with City Council to assign an attorney to the body based on the names submitted by City Council,” said Flint City Attorney Angela Wheeler.
The state wants the city to approve a plan that would see the city continue to draw its water from the Great Lakes Water Authority under a 30-year contract negotiated by Weaver that would mean abandoning plans to switch to the KWA pipeline.
Earlier, as Flint awaited the completion of the Karegnondi pipeline after its water contract with GLWA predecessor Detroit expired, it drew water from the Flint River and improperly treated it at a city plant, corroding pipes and causing contamination from lead.
State officials claim that council's delay to enact a long-term contract could leave Flint without a water source by October, when Genesee County is expected to take back a section of pipeline that's currently supplying Flint with GLWA water.
Wright said Flint can continue to use a 72-inch-diameter pipeline owned by the county as long as it takes the city council to vote on the 30-year contract proposed by Weaver.
“If construction of the 42" [bond financed pipeline] remains on schedule, factoring in weather and other conditions, the 72" pipeline will not be needed by the County after this point,” Wright said. “There is no intention to sever the current agreement with Flint, which provides use of the 72" pipeline. Delivery of high quality water to both Flint and Genesee County must remain the highest priority. Genesee County will continue to assist Flint in that effort, as the water emergency continues."
Flint was preparing to shift to KWA supplied, un-treated water in 2019 with plans to make much needed upgrades to its treatment plant to meet federal standards. In April Weaver dropped the plan to make the switch to the bond-financed pipeline and recommended the city continue to purchase water from GLWA.
Under any scenario moving forward, Flint and Genesee County's obligation to the KWA bonds remains unchanged. Flint pledged to repay about 34% of the $220 million. The city’s bond commitment is estimated at $7 million per year, for the next 28 years. If Flint doesn't make its bond payment, Genesee County — the other primary partner in the KWA — is on the hook to take over the city's debt because the county pledged its full faith and credit to the project.
Weaver’s plan with GLWA the city would recoup the roughly $7 million in annual debt service by transferring its KWA water rights to GLWA. According to Weaver a switch to KWA would require the city to use nearly $60 million dollars that is currently allocated for pipe replacement and infrastructure improvements to make upgrades to the outdated water treatment plant.