Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Milwaukee Now Requires More Notice When Contractors Dig Up Streets

Prior practice was "terrible" says Bay View alderwoman.

By - Jun 1st, 2023 05:13 pm
Water line construction on S. 13th St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Water line construction on S. 13th St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic and the Department of Public Works (DPW) hope to make it less surprising when private contractors start digging up your street.

On Wednesday, the Common Council unanimously voted to substantially increase notice requirements for contractors performing excavation work on city streets.

The prior ordinance required a paper notice be issued to abutting property owners two days in advance of excavation work, such as installing a fiber optic line or replacing a sewer line, if the was to take more than four days.

“That isn’t going very well,” said Dimitrijevic in briefing the Public Works Committee on May 17. Referencing a recent sewer project near her Bay View home, she said she received no notice on what the work was, when it would start or when it would end. “The communication was terrible.”

The council has now changed the requirement to a three-day notice if the work lasts more than one day. An amendment also added a penalty, of $25 to $250, for failure to comply with the notice requirements.

The fine was added at the suggestion of Alderman Russell W. Stamper, II who said the notices aren’t being lost, they’re never being delivered.

The notice now must include the type of work to be performed, expected duration and the name and telephone number of someone directly responsible for and knowledgeable of the project.

Contractors must take photos or record a video of delivering the notices. “Like Amazon style,” said Dimitrijevic.

“We think it’s a big improvement,” said the alderwoman.

“What most contractors do is put a notice directly on that person’s door,” said DPW coordination manager James Washington. He said others use letters with delivery confirmation. Certified mail, said Washington, is too expensive given the scale of some projects.

“It feels like there is a lot less accountability in these private contracts. And these are multi-million dollar citywide contracts. I think these contractors can do better in communicating,” said the alderwoman.

“This is good,” said Ald. Robert Bauman.

Ald. Jonathan Brostoff said he welcomed the change, so he didn’t need to attempt to figure out what the work was and then try to distribute the information. “I’ve just been taking that into my own hands, because if my constituents don’t get that notice they get upset, and they should get upset,” said Brostoff.

The private contractors receive permits, which include requirements on noticing neighbors and other practices, from DPW.

From the council floor Wednesday, Dimtrijevic added Stamper, Bauman, Scott Spiker, José G. Pérez, Khalif Rainey, JoCasta Zamarripa, Mark Borkowski, Larresa Taylor and Lamont Westmoreland as cosponsors. “I have gotten major complaints about the lack of notice and disregard,” said Pérez.

Dimitrijevic credited DPW for helping identify ways to improve the process.

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Related Legislation: File 200848

One thought on “City Hall: Milwaukee Now Requires More Notice When Contractors Dig Up Streets”

  1. Daniel Adams says:

    What about the quality and material of street patches by contractors? I frequently see good condition concrete streets cut open by contractors and the hole filled with low-quality asphalt that eventually turns into a pothole. How do we hold contractors accountable to patching in a quality manner?

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