FLINT TWP. — Responding to numerous comments from residents and business owners, Township Supervisor Karyn Miller has set a meeting date to discuss the recurring theme of changing the township’s name.
The public meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, September 29 at the township hall. Miller said she already has the names of about ten people who have volunteered to serve on a committee to discuss the issue but she is open to adding many more.
This will mark the second time this year and at least the fifth time overall that a suggested name change has cropped up. Interest surfaced in the 1950s, 1970s, 1990s and in 2012 but never came to fruition.
Trustee George Menoutes broached the idea again back in the February, when Flint’s water contamination crisis was drawing national attention.
Menoutes said he was getting reports about Flint’s problem negatively impacting investors interested in opening a business in Flint Township.
“We are not in Flint but we are associated with it,” he said then. He referenced the positive results from Pontiac Township changing its name to Auburn Hills in 1983.
“I am thinking of protecting Flint Township,” Menoutes said. “Any more thought to changing the name might reduce insurance premiums and might create jobs.”
He said he felt bad about what Flint residents were experiencing but also was concerned that what happens in the city also affects the township because of its name.
There was no follow through on Menoutes request, but Kevin Stiff, owner of the Dive Shop on Corunna Road, resurrected the subject at the September 6 township board meeting, revisited it at this week’s meeting and said he would bring it up again at the next meeting until he sees action.
Stiff, who also is a township resident, said he spoke on behalf of business owners. He mentioned seeing more and more vacant stores at Genesee Valley Center mall and elsewhere in the township.
“Something needs to be done,” Stiff said, adding that suffering businesses pay much higher taxes than residents who in the past have spoken against the name change. Stiff, who has been in business 30 years. said his Flint mailing address is now negatively impacting his business.
Stiff also said he had done research online about many other communities that flourished after a name change, not only in Michigan but elsewhere. He also mentioned that Pontiac Township was a dying area before changing its name to Auburn Hills. “I could use a shot in the arm and I know other businesses around here that could use something new,’’ Stiff said.
Gene Leverette, also a resident who spoke during public comment, said he did not see the stigma from sharing the Flint name nor is he convinced that the Auburn Hills name change brought such great advantages. But at least one potential investor, interested in the old Best Buy building on Miller Road, bowed out because of the Flint water crisis, said Tracey Tucker, economic enhancement director. This was despite assurances that township water is supplied by the county and not associated with Flint water, she said.
Many Flint Township businesses, especially restaurants, have noticed posted on the door to assure customers that they do not use Flint water. Miller said she is taking on neutral stance on the name change issue but calling the meeting on an exploratory basis. A similar committee she set up in 2012 met several times before abandoning the idea. Issues brought to the table for discussion back then included costs, taxes, mailing addresses, insurance rates and state boundary requirements.
Miller said she would speak with the township’s attorney before the exploratory meeting next week to refresh her memory about the legal issues raised last time.