Flint’s Weaver offers updates on water authority

Jacob Carah
Special to The Detroit News

Residents received updates on progress on the county’s new water pipeline at a town hall Tuesday with Flint Mayor Karen Weaver, who said the city has “the most to lose” in any further missteps in the move to a new water authority.

The mayor told the audience she has been in “a lot of discussion of what is happening with the (water) board and completion of the water authority’s pipeline,” referring to the new Karegnondi Water Authority pipeline from Lake Huron. The mayor said the city “has the most to lose, and we already lost the most” over the new pipeline.

Citing “bad decisions made for the city of Flint,” Weaver said decisions that were put into place for millions in KWA bonds were “not in Flint’s best interests.” Flint must pay 34 percent of the principal and interest owed on $220.5 million in bonds KWA issued to finance the pipeline, according to bond documents.

The new, $300 million Karegnondi Water Authority is expected to provide Lake Huron water to Genesee County and Flint. The city joined KWA in 2013 under control of an emergency manager in a move designed to save the city money on water purchases when it left the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.

That move led to the lead water contamination crisis when the city, awaiting the finished KWA, began drawing water from the Flint River and failed to use corrosion controls.

Last month, some residents made it clear that they oppose the city’s move to the new water source. Frustration over ongoing issues, including delays and looming costs with KWA has led to calls to remain with the Great Lakes Water Authority.

“We have a lot to lose,” Weaver said. “Our water system is one of our biggest assets, our water plant is one of our biggest assets, we don’t want to lose that. I don’t know what they were thinking when those deals were put on the table.”

Councilman Eric Mays, who sits on the KWA board, added, “If we miss a payment, the county can take our water away, we can lose revenue sharing, that’s whats being said here.”

Weaver said that’s why “were going to take our time” with the KWA, she said.

Elaine Connor, who spends a lot of time at meetings and other town hall forums, said she came out for further information for people in her neighborhood.

“I have my little notebook and try to pass it on to my friends and people in my church to keep them plugged-in," she said.

“Its surprising how much people don't know whats happening,” she said. Connor, 66, said her trust in government to handle the crisis is low.

“My confidence level right now isn't that great with anybody in government right now," she said. “I don't know what exactly to believe, it doesn't matter if it’s the mayor, it doesn't matter if its the governor.”

The lifelong resident said her lack of trust extends to the KWA pipeline. “From what I hear, it just doesn't sound all that smart,” saying, “I'm hearing it won't be a reliable source, that all they said before isn't all that it will end up being, to become, and while its all word of mouth, none of its sounds very good.”