Milwaukee's mayor proposes $20M for lead poisoning reduction programs

MILWAUKEE -- Mayor Tom Barrett presented his 2019 proposed executive budget to the Milwaukee Common Council on Tuesday, Sept. 25.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett

"The budget I am presenting is very tight, but the good news is we have avoided drastic cuts," Barrett told city leaders.

The mayor's office said one of the highlights of this year's budget is a $20 million investment in the city's lead poisoning reduction programs as well as lead service line replacements.

"When we are making decisions for our city, the health and safety of our residents are paramount. Devoting $20 million in one budget to this problem tells you this is something I take very, very seriously. This is the most comprehensive response to lead issues in the city's history. In 2019, Milwaukee Water Works will continue to scale up its Lead Service Line Replacement Program with plans to remove 1,000 more lead connections. For the sake of efficiency and productivity, we will use Water Works employees to do much more of this work. This new approach will reduce the overall cost per project and add 15 new Water Works employees," said Barrett.

Barrett also said lead inspection positions are funded in his budget plan, and the Department of Neighborhood Services would take on additional work -- overseeing downspout disconnections in multi-unit residential properties.

Alderman Bob Donovan

Alderman Bob Donovan said he believes the investment in the Milwaukee Health Department is needed.

"That department was underfunded for many years," said Donovan.

The mayor indicated his budget plan maintains all equipment and staffing for the Milwaukee Fire Department. With the police department, the budget proposal would add 10 positions -- and hire 100 new officers.

"We're buying an additional 50 vehicles for the police department as well," said Barrett.

Mayor Barrett also talked about the streetcar. He said it will be on time and on budget.

"Whether you support the streetcar or not, ride it. It’s here. Let’s make it a success. It will be free to ride for the first year through a sponsorship with Potawatomi Hotel & Casino," said Barrett.

The budget also includes 25 miles of road improvements and 23 miles of sewer upgrades.

The Milwaukee Common Council will review the mayor's budget plan and consider amendments. It will be finalized in November.

"I'm hoping that we're headed in the right direction. I'm sure there will be some changes," said Donovan.

CLICK HERE to read the complete text of Mayor Barrett's budget speech