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BENTON HARBOR — Benton Harbor City Commission made progress Monday toward removing lead from the city’s aging infrastructure.

City Manager Ellis Mitchell was authorized to award Meeks Contracting Services three contracts – two to replace lead water service lines in Phase I of the EPA replacement project and one to perform a Drinking Water Asset Management inspection, paid for by a state grant.

There are 360 lines being considered in this EPA project, Mitchell said. Phase I of the project includes replacing 100 lines, Abonmarche Project Engineer Jason Marquardt told the city commission.

Phase I would start in October and end in April or May of 2022.

However, several commissioners expressed concerns over the potholing that would take place.

Marquardt said it wouldn’t be exceedingly intrusive for the city.

Commissioner-at-large MaryAlice Adams said she wanted the lines to be removed, but also to see a list of the lead pipes that have been removed, so new roads would not have to be torn up.

Mayor Marcus Muhammad said he understood the request, but the task was too urgent to delay.

“It’s going to get done, with no delay,” Muhammad said, calling the lead contamination a “911 emergency.”

Mayor Pro-Tem Duane Seats said he wanted people to get clean drinking water, but expressed concerns the EPA would waste taxpayer money while locating faulty lines.

“You can’t be taken advantage of because you’re in an emergency situation,” Seats said.

Third Ward Commissioner Juanita Henry asked the board to make sure the city wasn’t being overcharged, even if they needed to work quickly.

“There is oversight on everything we are doing,” Mitchell assured commissioners.

Meeks Contracting Services, which is based in Benton Harbor, submitted the lowest bid for all three contracts.

Other business

Another retail marijuana store got the green light in Benton Harbor.

Redbud Roots Lab VII, LLC received approval for an adult-use retail permit at Monday’s commission meeting.

In March 2020, city commissioners chose Redbud and three other dispensaries out of 11 applicants for four available medical marijuana provisioning center licenses, where the product can be sold to people who possess medical marijuana cards.

The board voted to remove a resolution regarding its partnership with Bird Rides, Inc., an app-based, scooter company, so the city attorney would be able to review the agreement.

The scooters cost no money for the city to maintain, as Bird Rides will pay the city $750 for a licensing fee, according to the agreement.

Unless terminated, the agreement would last until Dec. 31, 2022.

Monday’s meeting was also the last for Clerk Kimberly Thompson. Commissioners and audience members gave her two standing ovations during a citizen comment, commending her on a 16-year tenure.

“I just want to thank everyone for allowing me to serve as clerk for 16 years,” Thompson said.

During their time for comment, commissioners, the mayor and the city manager thanked her for her service, referencing song lyrics in their praises.

“It’s been short, but it’s been sweet. You were an excellent clerk,” Mitchell said.

Contact: jknot@TheHP.com, 932-0360, Twitter: @knotjuliana