Milwaukee County Supervisors Avoid Opportunity to Remove Estabrook Dam
Finance and Audit Committee ignores Parks Department’s expert opinion to remove blighted structure
MILWAUKEE – In the face of a massive cost overrun, the Milwaukee County Finance and Audit Committee yesterday ignored expert opinion and the voices of more than 1,500 Milwaukee County residents and refused to take action to remove the Estabrook Dam. The Dam is a blighted structure that would require millions of taxpayer dollars to overhaul and environmental analysis has shown the dam has a negative effect on the river and surrounding land and increases flood risk.
“We’re disappointed with supervisors’ unwillingness to act not only in the best interest of their constituents, but also for the health of the Milwaukee River,” said Cheryl Nenn, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, who testified at the Committee meeting. “The Committee had the opportunity to rightfully change the direction of this decision after being presented with this summer’s increased cost estimates.”
Recent reports have indicated the County is facing a shortfall of $600,000 in the budget to repair the dam, before work has even begun. Bringing the dam down would save more than $2 million immediately and more than $6 million over the next 20 years, and be a better environmental choice, said advocates.
Recent construction bids for repairing the Dam were higher than expected, meaning the $4.1 million budget for repair is already $600,000 short. The Parks Department testified during the meeting that their recommendation stems in part from years of experience in recognizing how concerning it is to be this far over budget so early on in the process, before construction has even started. The Department suggested the price tag for repairing the dam is likely to climb even higher if the project moves forward.
“Unfortunately, there is still no commitment from the Milwaukee County Board to hold a clean “up and down” vote on this policy,” said Nenn. “When an issue like this has dragged on for so many years, when a court order is involved, and thousands of County residents have made their voices heard, we feel strongly the public deserves to have every single one of their elected County officials go on the record letting their constituents know where they stand.”
The Parks Department resolution comes after numerous other resolutions and statements calling for dam removal have been issued by the City of Milwaukee, the Village of Shorewood, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, and the Milwaukee County Executive.
Of the Milwaukee County Supervisors on the Finance and Audit Committee, Supervisors Peggy Romo West, Michael Mayo Sr., Willie Johnson Jr., Supreme Moore Omokunde and Sequanna Taylor voted to hold the vote over. Supervisors Sheldon Wasserman and Jason Haas were the only ones to vote against the postponement.
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The vote is an important step in the effort to ultimately remove the Estabrook Dam.
Despite the public outcry the Board of Supervisors have never held a straight up and down vote on repairing or removing the dam.
Claim by homeowners organization that removing the dam would cost taxpayers millions is questionable at best.
Artwork to be displayed this week at the Tory Folliard Gallery in the Historic Third Ward