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City terminates two contracts with American Sewer Services

By: Alex Zank, [email protected]//January 17, 2018//

City terminates two contracts with American Sewer Services

By: Alex Zank, [email protected]//January 17, 2018//

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American Sewer Services has signed an agreement with Milwaukee officials that effectively removes the contractor from two public-works jobs in the city.

Responding to the public outrage that broke out over photos depicting workers carrying firearms and bringing racist symbols to city job sites, the Department of Public Works has been working with the Rubicon-based contractor to forfeit some of the work the company had been contracted to perform for the city.

Ghassan Korban, Milwaukee public works commissioner, presented a final settlement agreement with American Sewer Services to members of the Milwaukee Common Council on Wednesday morning. He said the agreement accomplishes three goals: It terminates an ongoing contract with American Sewer Services; calls for another that had not yet been awarded to be bid out again; and ensures that American Sewer Services will not contest the termination of its contracts or compete again for the projects that are to be rebid.

American Sewer Services was the apparent low bidder for the second project, saying it could perform the sewer-main lining work for roughly $405,000. The second-lowest bid had come in at about $35,000 more.

As for the first contract, there’s a little more than $486,000 worth of work left on it.

The termination agreement between Department of Public Works and American Sewer Services was signed by both parties on Jan. 11. City aldermen approved it on Wednesday.

Before giving his approval, Alderman Robert Bauman made sure the agreement would not prevent aldermen from taking further punitive action against American Sewer Services. He and others are considering debarring the contractor. If they took such a step, American Sewer Services would be prohibited from doing business with the city for a set period of time.

City officials also plan to call on the company owner, Dennis Biondich, to appear at a public hearing.

Korban said the agreement wouldn’t prevent the Common Council from taking such steps.

“However, he (Biondich) is hoping this settlement should send a message both ways, that he took this very seriously,” he said.

Over the past five years, Milwaukee officials have awarded American Sewer Services about $50 million worth of public-works contracts. The company has been doing business with the city for about three decades.

The contractor came under fire in late 2017 after pictures were posted on social media showing three of its employees carrying guns on a job site in north Milwaukee. About a week later, pictures from a separate job site were posted showing a cooler decorated with a Confederate flag and Ku Klux Klan sticker. The cooler turned out to belong to another American Sewer Services employee.

The owner of the company responded by firing two of the workers and suspending two others.

Lead abatement efforts

Also on Wednesday, aldermen responded to news last week that the Milwaukee Health Department had failed to adequately notify families that their children had tested positive for elevated levels of lead in their blood.

Two of the most common sources of lead poisoning are lead-based paint and drinking water running through lead service lines. Roughly 75,000 properties in the city have lead service lines, including more than half of all residential properties.

Common Council members approved a motion to investigate the health department and its management of the city’s lead-abatement work. They also planned to hold a special meeting of the city’s Steering and Rules Committee meeting on Wednesday afternoon to further discuss the matter.

Alderman Tony Zielinski announced he was introducing legislation that would direct the city clerk to issue a request for proposals seeking a firm to conduct a “comprehensive operations audit” of the health department.

Zielinski said the resolution would ask that responses be submitted 10 days after the request for proposals was issued “so we could get this project moving quickly.”


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