Flint City Council members raise concerns about alleged water settlement violations

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FLINT, Michigan (WJRT) - (11/07/2018) - Flint's Finance Committee re-convened an investigative hearing as it tries to get a better handle on where the millions of dollars in federal and state aid is going in the wake of the Flint water crisis.

But a new letter from the Attorney General's office accusing Flint of violating the terms of its $97 million dollar Settlement agreement took center stage at the beginning of tonight's hearing.

Several council members felt that the letter dated November 1st was relevant to the discussion, as it addresses cost concerns in regards to the city's pipe replacement program.

Finance Committee Chairman Eric Mays disagreed.

"I came here with more of an idea of looking at 400 million dollars or more coming in," Mays said.

But five of his colleagues felt the scope of the hearing should include the contents of the letter from Assistant Attorney General Richard Kuhl.

After a heated exchange, there were enough votes to allow the letter to be included as part of the discussion:

"It's quite clear you cannot talk about the flow of money," said councilwoman Kate Fields, "if there's not going to be any flow of money."

The letter, which threatens to withhold reimbursement, accuses Flint of violating the terms of its $ 97 million dollar Settlement agreement by
suspending the use of hydro-excavation in favor of open-trench excavations that are more costly, and making a policy decision in 2018 to stop prioritizing excavations at homes where lead or galvanized steel service lines were expected to be found, in favor of digging up every residential service line in the City

The state also asserts that the City's new random excavation plan has resulted in it's "hit rate" dropping from 71.8% in 2016 - 2017 when it used 'predictive modeling', to less than 20% in 2018.

AECOM, the Engineering firm hired by the city on a $5 million dollar contract to oversee the FAST start program, was asked about the difference in results:

"They ran it, and they got a map of the results so they used that map, to guide them where to work in Phase 4, and they worked mainly closer to the center of the city, the older parts of the city," said Alan Wong.

We tried to talk with Mr. Wong after his presentation, but he declined to answer our questions.

Councilwoman Monica Galloway says she still doesn't have any clarity on the issue after listening to Mr. Wong's explanation:

"I didn't hear anything that supported one way or another," she said, "why we had such a great percentage in 2017, and why we don't have such a great one in 2018."

The letter from the state also accuses the city of submitted numerous invoices for reimbursement that are incomplete, involve duplicate costs, or are not covered under the terms of the Settlement Agreement.

AECOM was also asked about how it handles its invoices.

The investigative hearing is scheduled to continue on Monday at 4pm.

Amy Epkey, who was scheduled to appear on behalf of MDEQ Wednesday night did not show up for the hearing.

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