Councilmembers Eric Mays, Maurice Davis, Santino Guerra, Herbert Winfrey and Jerry Winfrey-Carter supported the amended contract, while Kate Fields, Monica Galloway, Louis Griggs and Eva Worthing opposed.
Worthing, Fields and Galloway voted against the contract in hopes of appealing the federal judge’s actions to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Griggs said he made his choice after listening to his constituents.
The council made the decision after a raucous debate and hearing from 23 residents voicing their opposition toward the deal during public comment.
“We were not elected to make popular decisions … you don’t mess with a federal judge,” said Second Ward Councilman Maurice Davis, adding that the city and council should unify with the mayor.
Winfrey – the council’s president – said he believes the judge has been “more than patient” with the council.
“I still don’t think it’s the best, but there are now some deal sweeteners in there that will certainly benefit the citizens of Flint,” The “sweeteners” were introduced at a city council meeting Monday, in which the council promised the judge to vote on the contract by next week. The newly-negotiated version of the 30-year agreement includes a promise from Gov. Rick Snyder to appoint a qualified Flint representative to the six-member GLWA board, which is responsible for determining water rates.
Additionally, the amended contract asks that $750,000 will be granted to the city for estimated water bill relief; that $100 million in funds earmarked in Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act be immediately released from the state to Flint; and a request from the state of Michigan to request that General Motors Engine Plant return as a user of Flint’s water supply.
The nine-member council headed to Detroit federal court on Monday, Nov. 20, where the MDEQ asked the judge to bypass the Flint council and order Mayor Karen Weaver to sign the agreement – a move the council’s attorneys called unconstitutional.
At the end of the four-hour meeting Tuesday, Weaver called the council’s decision “a long time coming.”
“We have been waiting for a decision for months … we’ve lost so much money waiting for this decision to be made,” Weaver said, adding that she believes her win in the Nov. 7 mayoral recall election was a sign that residents “believed in the direction this leadership is taking people.”
“You can’t please everybody, but we know we made the best decision for public safety and being fiscally responsible,” Weaver said.
City council’s agreement to the 30-year GLWA contract may mark the end of a federal court battle waged since June, when the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality sued Flint, saying the city was endangering resident’s health by not selecting a long-term water source.
Since its emergency switch from the Flint River in October 2015 in light of the city’s lead-in-water crisis, Flint has been on a series of short-term contracts with Detroit-based GLWA.
The city’s current contract with GLWA expires Thursday, Nov. 30.
Although both Snyder and Weaver support a proposed 30-year contract with GLWA since April, the council has refused to vote on the deal, saying it was excluded from negotiations and needed more information before it could responsibly act.
Last week, the council held a lengthy series of closed and open meetings, poring over the contract with various city, county and state officials – marking the first time council has sat with the mayor to discuss the deal, said Winfrey.
Skeptical of a state-paid consultant’s conclusion that the Detroit water source is best for the city, in October, the council asked Lawson in to postpone its decision while a third-party consultant analyzed Flint’s water options.
In court filings, council and its attorneys have said that the city is hindering council’s ability to begin its third-party analysis by not approving the contract for its selected consultant “despite several circulations and revisions of his agreement.”
Lawson previously blasted the council’s failure to vote on the contract, referring to its “failure of leadership” as “breathtaking.” The council responded by asking the judge for a two-year extension to its GLWA contract, which Lawson denied.