From Tuesday’s South Milwaukee City Council meeting …
- The council voted 7-0 to award a contract of more than $4.5 million to C.D. Smith Construction for a variety of necessary upgrades to the Wastewater Treatment Facility. This includes construction of a new ultraviolet disinfection system, a new pumping system, a new diesel generator to serve as a backup power source for the plant, various upgrades to the plant’s secondary digester, new “tube mixers,” and a new plant power distribution system. The rate increase approved earlier this year will fund the project. Learn more in my previous posts here and here.
- The council voted 7-0 to give first reading to an ordinance around drug paraphernalia. This ordinance adopts the state statute locally, stating this: “No person may use, or possess with the primary intent to use, drug paraphernalia to plant, propagate, cultivate, grow, harvest, manufacture, compound, convert, produce, process, prepare, test, analyze, pack, repack, store, contain, conceal, inject, ingest, inhale or otherwise introduce into the human body a controlled substance or controlled substance analog in violation of this chapter. Any person who violates this subsection may be fined not more than $500.” An important goal of adopting this ordinance change: Stop local businesses from selling gear that while not solely used for drug use, is clearly meant to be used for just that purpose.
- The council voted 6-1 to match a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources grant that will help us take a big first step in fighting back against the emerald ash borer. The city recently applied for a $46,000 grant from the DNR, with $23,000 of those funds coming from the city and the other half from the state. If we get the money, the grant will pay for mapping all trees on city-owned land and in the street right of way, preparation of emerald ash borer preparedness and urban forest management plans, and production of information materials. I am a strong supporter of this initial step because, at this point, we don’t know what we don’t know when it comes to EAB. We don’t know how widespread nor how acute the EAB infestation is in South Milwaukee – nor do we have a plan for next steps once we do know this information. This funding will answer those questions … giving us the education we need to make an informed decision. Doing nothing is really not an option here.
- The council voted 7-0 to approve spending up to $8,400 on demolition of a foreclosed home at 3804 4th Ave. I consider this a sad case study in the impact of the foreclosure crisis on neighborhoods. This home has been abandoned for some time – the owner apparently walked away from the mortgage – and the demolition was a long time coming (too long) because of the complexities so commonly associated with the foreclosure process. While lawyers, lenders and others spent years trying to bring this to a conclusion – including spending months fighting just over who actually owns the property – the home became a hazard as its foundation crumbled. It got so bad that a neighbor’s driveway has been damaged by the deterioration. The demolition will at least stop the damage, bring this property a step closer to being a home again … and conclude, for now, a story that is unfortunately playing out across the country, one neighborhood at a time.
Also, the next City Council meeting is Nov. 13, rescheduled from Nov. 6 (Election Day). The other council meeting next month will be Nov. 27, when the budget will be considered.
And, finally, the newly formed Chapter 68 Appeals Committee, at its meeting Monday night, voted to deny the variance sought by the owner of Spirits Bar & Grill for installation of an automatic sprinkling system. Spirits suffered a major fire in May, and owned Ed Abrams is looking to rebuild. However, city ordinances are clear: The rebuilt establishment must have an automatic sprinkling system, for safety reasons. Abrams told the panel that he wants the exception because he can not afford the estimated $50,000 it will cost to install the system, and insurance will not fund it. I am not sure what the denial will mean to the future of Spirits, but I will keep you posted.