Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Proposal Uses Lead Abatement Funds for Marketing

Ald. Lewis proposes using lateral replacement funds for council's "community outreach."

By - Nov 7th, 2019 11:09 am
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Lead service lines replaced by the Milwaukee Water Works with corrosion control visible in pipe. Image from Milwaukee Water Works.

Lead service lines replaced by the Milwaukee Water Works with corrosion control visible in pipe. Image from Milwaukee Water Works.

A 2020 budget amendment from Alderwoman Chantia Lewis would take $50,130 from a city lead abatement program to create a new position focused on supporting events created by Common Council members.

“We have in the City’s Clerk office a community outreach liaison who is by her lonesome and maintains 15 alders,” said Lewis during the Finance & Personnel Committee’s October 31st budget amendment meeting. “It’s a lot of work to do Bronzeville Week, Hip Hop Week, the 4th of July parade, Harvest Fest and all of the other things.”

Lewis introduced the amendment, the 97th and final one considered by the committee, as a loose amendment meaning it wasn’t available for public review before the meeting. Discussion on the amendment came at approximately 8:30 p.m., almost 11 hours after the meeting had first started.

“I’m asking for some support on this amendment because it’s just right to add more assistance to this department,” said Lewis.

She found support from Ald Russell W. Stamper, II who asked to be added as a c0-sponsor.

To fund the position, $50,130 would be removed from the $5.2 million lead service line replacement fund. The fund is used to replace the approximately 75,000 lead laterals that connect homes to the city’s water system. Replacing all of the lead service lines is estimated to cost over $750 million.

Through June 30th, 2019 the cost to replace both the publicly and privately owned portions of a lead service line was averaging $10,683 according to a July Milwaukee Water Works (MWW) report.

The impact of approximately five fewer lead service line replacements would not be directly felt in Lewis’s far northwest side district. Because she represents a relatively newer area of the city, hers is the only council district that hasn’t had a lead service line replaced.

But Stamper, Lewis’s co-sponsor, has had 210 laterals replaced in his district, the third most of any district. A MWW report from July notes that this represents 2.9 percent of the total laterals in the 15th Aldermanic District.

All 15 of the city’s council districts have been home to children that have tested positive for lead poisoning, which regularly occurs because of paint and soil-based sources in addition to water.

MWW is scheduled to replace 1,000 lead laterals this year and has a total of $12.4 million to do so through a variety of programs. Almost all of the lead-in-water abatement work is locally funded, while the city receives federal grants to treat lead paint. The 2019 city budget includes over $20 million for lead-related issues.

Lewis’s amendment passed on a 3-2 vote, with Lewis, Stamper and Milele A. Coggs voting in favor. Jose G. Perez and Michael Murphy voted against the proposal.

Since January 1st, 2017, the city has mandated replacement of both the publicly-owned portion of the lateral that connects to the water main under the street and the privately-owned portion that connects to the building. When either portion has a leak or break, the entire pipe must be replaced. Similarly, if the utility disturbs or disconnects a lead lateral as part of work in the street, the entire thing is required to be replaced. In addition, as part of the 2017 budget city officials funded a program to replace all 385 lead service lines in use at child-care facilities in the city. That work had not been completed as of July 2019 due to non-compliance from the facility operators.

The amendment is one of dozens the Common Council will consider during its November 8th budget adoption day.

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