Federal judge denies Flint City Council's attempt to delay decision on water source

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FLINT (WJRT) (10/27/2017) - A federal judge issued a ruling Friday blocking an effort by the Flint City Council to delay action on a long-term agreement on a water source.

U.S. District Judge David Lawson wrote that council members presented no convincing reasons to delay action on a water agreement. He believes, conversely, that the council's inaction may have made the city's financial situation worse.

"There is no basis to conclude that the need for immediate action has diminished. In fact, as time slips away, Flint’s opportunities for an economical long-term water supply contract are running out," Lawson wrote.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality filed the lawsuit earlier this year to compel Flint to secure a long-term water source. Flint Mayor Karen Weaver signed a long-term contract with the Great Lakes Water Authority in Detroit, but the Flint City Council did not ratify it.

Lawson wrote that the deal Weaver signed has expired on Sept. 30 and no longer is available for the city council to ratify.

"That deal is off the table, and it is unclear whether all or part of it can be
revived," Lawson wrote.

However, members of the Flint City Council were bound by an earlier ruling from Lawson to ratify a long-term agreement with a water supplier by the end of Monday, Oct. 23. Council members, instead, did not approve a deal and filed an emergency motion with the court asking Lawson to provide more time.

The council hoped to work with a consultant to study in detail long-term water supply proposals from the Great Lakes Water Authority in Detroit and the Karegnondi Water Authority from Genesee County.

However, Lawson wrote in his ruling that inaction on the council's part may actually have worsened the city's financial position. The Great Lakes Water Authority had offered more advantageous terms, which expired on Sept. 30, including credits to help pay Flint's share of bonds to the Karegnondi Water Authority.

"The City Council’s water consultant wants 75 days to complete his task. During that time, the window will close on the opportunity to refinance the KWA bond debt," Lawson wrote. "Meanwhile, Flint will pay short-term (that is, premium) rates for its water and a hefty sum to KWA each month."

Lawson's order does not compel any immediate action, but by denying to officially extend the Monday, Oct. 23, deadline the council again is bound to meet it.

Council members have said they were willing to risk jail time if they are found in contempt of court for failing to meet Lawson's deadline.

The council did, however, approve a 30-day extension with the Great Lakes Water Authority to continue providing water after the current contract expires on Oct. 31. It wasn't immediately clear if that deal would be approved by the water authority.

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