Milwaukee Common Council Approved $1,600 Cost For Private Property Lateral Replacement

It will be mandatory for residential toxic lead laterals to be replaced in Milwaukee when they fail, damaged or broken.

By H. Nelson Goodson
Hispanic News Network U.S.A.

December 13, 2016

Milwaukee, WI – On Tuesday, the Milwaukee Common Council on a vote of 12-3 passed a mandatory lead service line replacement requirement for a cost-share structure between the City and private property owners, which would mandate full replacement, if a lead lateral connected to the City’s water main is damaged, fails, leaks, breaks or the water main is replaced due to infrastructure repair. Under an amendment added to the lead lateral mandate, a quarterly report and financial impact assessment would be required.
Private property owners would now be required to pay $1,600 of the cost to replace the full toxic lead lateral connections and the City would pay 2/3s of the cost. Home owners would have an option to pay in full for lead lateral replacement or would be given up to ten years to pay by including the cost in their property taxes with low interest rates.
The Freshwater For Life Action Coalition (FLAC) had argued that lead laterals on private properties were owned by the City, since the City in 1872 mandated the use of lead laterals to be connected from the City’s water main into buildings, but Alderman James Bohl told members of the Common Council that under state law and other legal decisions including the opinion of the City Attorney, that it has been determined that lead laterals in private property are owned by the property owner.
Alderman Mark A. Borkowski argued that the mandate to stop using lead laterals began in 1986 and it wasn’t until 2004 that City Aldermen became aware that they had an issue with lead laterals. Borkowski now says, that at least 90% of all Milwaukee homes could have lead lateral connections than previously reported. Aldermen couldn’t confirm, if in fact the City stopped mandating the use of residential lead laterals connections to the water main in 1951.
According to a June 16, 2016 memorandum from Kate Pawasarat, Community Analytics Analyst for the City of Milwaukee Department of Administration Budget and Management Division, she reported the following information.
There are approximately 74,600 properties with lead service lines in the City of Milwaukee.
• Based on property assessment class information, 91.5% of properties with lead service lines are
residential.
• Approximately 68,300 residential properties or 54.2% of all residential properties in the City of Milwaukee have lead service lines.

Statement from FLAC Spokesperson Robert Miranda, “Even though Common Council voted to pass the Mayor’s proposal based the opinion of the City Attorney that ownership/responsibility of the lead laterals on the homeowners side is property of the homeowner, I have forward the City Attorney’s opinion to a lawyer from EarthJustice based in Washington DC., who is an expert on lead lateral ownership issues and who informed me that she will review the City Attorney’s opinion and let me know where we stand. Since the Common Council will not take the responsibility to get a second opinion to ensure the citizens are not being unduly taxed again, we’ll have to do the work of the people who we elected to represent us, but decided they work more for the government than they do for the people.”

In other Milwaukee Common Council action on Tuesday:

• A 10-day Class B Tavern and Public Entertainment Premises license suspension was approved for both Kaña Mojito Club, 625 S. 5th St. operated by Angel Velazquez and La Cage, 801 S. 2nd Street operated by Michael Jost. Alderman José G. Pérez voted for license suspension along with other aldermen. In the case of Kaña Mojito Club, Velazquez failed to call police after a woman was assaulted inside the club. The woman suffered a broken eye socket and brain trauma, according to the City Attorney’s Office. The Common Council vote 10-5 to reduce the 60-day suspension to a 10-day suspension under recommendation by Alderman Pérez.
In the case of La Cage, the Common Council on a vote of 15-0 decided on a 10-day suspension for lack of providing surveillance cameras and a nuisance complaint by a neighbor.

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