‘Unprecedented:’ Mayor’s budget proposal includes $20M for lead issues

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett

MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett thinks $20 million could help fix the lead problems, and he has two ideas he thinks could be part of the solution.

Set to present his 2019 budget on Tuesday, Sept. 25, Mayor Barrett said Sunday it's hard to ignore the $20 million line item aimed at fighting the city's ongoing lead issues.

"We're making an unprecedented investment. We don't pretend to say this is going to solve the problem," said Barrett.

State officials found the Milwaukee Health Department broke the law and failed to protect children impacted by lead.

"This is a problem that was decades in the making," said Barrett.

Of the $20 million, $7.6 million would be used to remove lead paint and other hazards in homes. $12.4 million would go toward replacing 1,000 lead pipes in the city in a year, and 15 additional Water Works employees to hep get that done.

"We want to make sure we're putting adequate resources in both problems -- the lead paint problem as well as the lead lateral problem," said Barrett.

Mayor Barrett said they would target pipes in childcare centers and about 450 areas with leaks.

"That's a natural time for us to go in and make the changes," said Barrett.

Alderman Bob Donovan

While Alderman Bob Donovan said he would support the measure, he said 1,000 pipes won't be enough.

"This administration got us into this mess in the first place. Now they have a lot of catching up to do," said Donovan.

Robert Miranda with Freshwater for Life Action Coalition said he's long believed the administration could be doing more, but he said the 2019 budget is a start.

Robert Miranda

"We're talking about 100 years before we could even get to a point where we could remove all these pipes. It is now becoming an issue in the mainstream and that's where it needs to be so we can really start moving things," said Miranda.

Mayor Barrett's budget proposal seeks funding from local and federal sources, along with a tax and fee increase for homeowners, averaging about $50 for a $109,000 home.

His budget proposal also includes changes to public safety, including funding for 10 more police officers and $7 million for new squad cars.