AP NEWS

State: Empower Flint mayor to revive water deal

November 3, 2017

The state Department of Environmental Quality wants a Detroit federal judge to give Flint Mayor Karen Weaver the power to approve a new 30-year water lease with the Detroit area system, according to a motion filed Friday.

The filing asks U.S. District Court Judge David Lawson to let Weaver “immediately execute the Master Agreement and the agreements incorporated therein on behalf of the City of Flint without regard to any objections by the Flint City Council.”

Weaver has been at odds with a majority of the nine City Council members who wanted to further study the 30-year agreement with the Detroit-area Great Lakes Water Authority.

Lawson rejected the council’s emergency motion for more study and cleared the way late last month for Weaver to move forward, responding to the mayor’s warning that the city could go bankrupt if the deal wasn’t approved and rejecting council’s attempts at more time.

But he said in the Oct. 27 ruling that escrowed signatures on the 30-year agreement had lapsed and it meant the master agreement had expired. Lawson indicated he couldn’t order the city of Flint to execute the agreement.

In the filing, the DEQ said a revised 30-year agreement has been negotiated and approved Friday by the Great Lakes authority. It also has been signed by the state, Genesee County Drain Commission and the regional Karegnondi Water Authority, which initially was supposed to become Flint’s water source but now becomes a backup system under the 30-year agreement.

The City Council has indicated it doesn’t agree with the development, so the state wants Lawson to make a expedited ruling by Tuesday.

The judge should “order the Mayor to immediately executive the Master Agreement and the agreements incorporated therein on behalf of the City of Flint without regard to any objections by the Flint City Council,” according to the filing.

In a mid-October decision, Lawson took Flint’s council to task for sitting on an April agreement backed by Weaver, the state and the federal Environmental Protection Agency that would have the city stay on the Detroit area water system.

“The failure of leadership, in light of the past crises and manifold warnings related to the Flint water system, is breathtaking,” the judge wrote in a decision ordering the council to approve a long-term water source.

The Flint council snubbed the judge and approved a two-year extension of service with the Great Lakes Water Authority even though no one else had proposed it.

Flint is holding a mayoral recall election on Tuesday. Mayor Karen Weaver is facing 17 challengers, including white City Council member Scott Kincaid.

lfleming@detroitnews.com