FLINT TWP. — The fact-finding phase of an effort underway to consider changing the township’s name or converting to a city will wind up after a public hearing set for 6 p.m. Jan. 12 at the township offices, 1490 S. Dye Road.
The hearing is being convened by a Suggestion Committee formed in September to explore the pros and cons of a name change or conversion. The issue has been visited unsuccessfully several times in the past but resurfaced recently in the wake of negative fallout experienced by some township businesses and residents from the City of Flint water contamination crisis which made national headlines.
The public hearing is the committee’s effort to get input from all stakeholders – residents and business owners. Real estate agents also are encouraged to attend.
“The committee would like to know how a name change or conversion to a city form of government will affect you and/ or your business,” stated a document on procedures for the hearing. Each speaker will be allowed three minutes. Written comments also will be accepted.
At previous meetings, the committee has examined the legal proceedings for a name change or city conversion and also the effect on zip codes and insurance rates.
At its February 2 meeting, the committee will discuss the pros and cons of converting to a city, based on the facts gathered. At a February 23, meeting it will discuss the name change option.
By its March 2 meeting, the group hopes to have a draft of the committee’s conclusions to recommend to the township board of trustees which ultimately will decide whether to pursue the matter. Approval of a final draft is tentatively set for a meeting on March 30.
At its December 8 meeting, the committee looked at information about ZIP codes and insurance rates.
Committee Chairperson Jerry Preston was not able to get a representative from the post office to attend the meeting but provided information he obtained from communication with postal officials.
Committee members had expressed interest in having one zip code for Flint Township, which currently has seven zip codes.
“The Postal Service will not assign ZIP Codes solely to provide community identity,” according to a letter from Elizabeth Najduch, the United States Postal Service Communications Programs Specialist for the Detroit District. Her letter detailed the longrange study involved in the procedure including studying growth patterns and the impact on neighboring municipalities.
She also said she had submitted the committee’s request for review by the Address Management Systems Department.
Preston also shared communication from Marilyn Ice, Greater Detroit Area – Manager, Address Management Systems at USPS. She said that “zip code assignments are closely linked to factors such as mail volume, delivery area size, geographic location and topography but not necessarily to municipal or community boundaries.”
For a review of the seven ZIP codes assigned to Flint Township, the committee or township board would need to submit the relevant zip codes, township boundary lines, and street listings with address ranges, she said.
An initial conclusion is that even if the township changes its name, it still would have a Flint, Flushing, Swartz Creek or Burton mailing address, based on the ZIP code assigned to the address.
Preston said he also had difficulty getting information from insurance agents. Some committee members wanted to know if a name change or new zip code, not associated with the City of Flint, might lower home and car insurance rates.
The answer is no, according to an emailed response from Andy Flanagan, administrator, Corporate Communications for the Auto-Owners Insurance in Lansing.
“By changing your name, the entity of your community, zip code, etc, does not change the underwriting characteristics of the individual or business residing within such boundaries,” he wrote.
In order to lower insurance rates, he suggested addressing issues including upgraded police and fire protection, lowering crime and improving roadways.
Ken Pangborn, a Farm Bureau Insurance agent, who attended he committee meeting, gave similar advice. He responded to numerous questions from committee members about why rates rose after moving or other reasons. Like cars, every municipality has its own risk classification, he said. More expensive cars cost more to repair and have higher rates.
“Bigger cities have higher premiums,” he said. Negative connotations attached to Flint “spill over into Flint Township,” he said. “People are trying valiantly to correct what is wrong but we can’t argue the reality of murder and theft and all that drives a poor (ratings) experience.”