Collaboration between state of Michigan and the city of Flint on the water crisis continues but there are still some major rifts more than two years after Flint’s water problems hit a tipping point.
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Flint Mayor Karen Weaver hit a snag this week when they disagreed on the end date for state payments to help Flint residents pay water bills.
The state ordered the payments stopped at the end of February while Weaver was expecting them to continue until the end of March.
The state payments were made to Flint citizens based on the undrinkable quality of the water due to lead levels beyond federal standards. Michigan based its termination of the payments on the most recent test results that show Flint’s lead levels are under federal limits.
Governor Snyder’s spokesperson Anna Heaton told Great Lakes Now that the payments ended “because the city’s water now meets the same quality standards as other communities.”
Flint’s Mayor Weaver tells the Detroit Free Press if credits were kept in place “it would have shown some continued goodwill that we are working to move Flint forward.”
Great Lakes Now asked Heaton if goodwill was lacking between Snyder and Weaver and if the stress of working on Flint’s problems over time had diminished the relationship.
“Mayor Weaver and Governor Snyder have a strong working relationship” responded Heaton. “The governor is absolutely committed to Flint’s full recovery.”
Weaver told the Free Press that the disagreement over water credits “is a small setback. We’re not going to let this stop us from moving forward.”
Heaton said at the meeting more time was spent “talking about the long-term services and programs for residents that are moving Flint’s recovery forward.”
The disagreement runs counter to collaboration displayed by participants at a Flint Town Hall hosted by Mayor Weaver in January where the parties vested in Flint’s recovery presented a united front.
Representatives of the governor’s office, Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the City of Flint spoke in lockstep about the quality of Flint’s water, remaining barriers and needed next steps.
A year ago, blame and rancor were rampant between the same groups as illustrated by the combative testimony to congress by Gov. Snyder and then U.S. EPA administrator Gina McCarthy.
Separate from the termination of the payments, Flint announced that it would resume shutoffs of water on accounts that are delinquent. Shutoffs had been suspended during the water crisis so people would not have to pay for water that wasn’t safe to drink.
Flint’s Chief Financial Officer David Sabuda told the Free Press that the resumption of shutoffs had been in the works for some time prior to the governor’s announcement that credits were ending. He acknowledged that without the state credits it would be more difficult for residents to pay their bills but said “we are going to follow the law.”