Leaders sought for LeadSafe initiative

March 4, 2019

MICHIGAN CITY —The city is looking for two qualified candidates to fill the positions of program manager and program inspector/rehabilitation specialist for its new LeadSafe Michigan City initiative.

And the pay for those positions will be discussed at a public hearing during Tuesday’s meeting of the Michigan City Common Council.

Council President Don Przybylinski introduced an ordinance at the Feb. 19 meeting asking the council to approve an annual salary of $50,000 for the lead program manager and $40,000 for the lead program inspector/rehabilitation specialist.

However, those salary amounts may be altered based on the city’s upcoming meeting with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which recently awarded $2.3 million in grant funds to Michigan City under its Lead Based Paint Hazard Reduction Grant program.

Michael Kuss, general manager for the Michigan City Sanitary District and chairman of the city’s Committee on Lead, told the council, “The only way to have this grant is to have these positions. …

“I don’t know if that (salary) is enough to get a qualified person; I don’t know how HUD’s going to feel about that. We do need to do some negotiations with them for this whole grant. Hopefully, they find those values acceptable to get quality people to come work with us on this program.”

Kuss said negotiations between HUD and the city were supposed to begin at a meeting on Jan. 23; but the federal government shutdown pushed the meeting back to a currently undetermined date.

However, Kuss still anticipates a contract will be finalized by April 1, as the city needs to fill both positions and make sure the incoming program manager is able to attend HUD training in Minneapolis over the course of several days in May.

When asked whether Michigan City residents would receive preferential hiring for either position, Kuss said they could if the interview committee – which has yet to be identified – determines such a stipulation to be appropriate.

“I know there’s a lot of interest in these two positions because the salaries that are listed are fairly competitive for Michigan City, more than competitive for Michigan City,” Councilman Tim Bietry said. “And I would like to see MC residents in those positions. But it’s far more important to me that you get people who have the proper qualifications for these positions than that they’re local residents.”

According to Kuss, the federal grant money is enough to fund the LeadSafe Michigan City initiative for approximately 3.5 years, including the salaries for the two new positions.

However, in order to win the maximum award, the city had to agree to a 39-percent match on $2 million, equivalent to $776,000.

Of that money, $420,000 in cash may be appropriated from the city’s Riverboat Fund, which is addressed in another ordinance that will also be up for public hearing Tuesday.

The remaining $356,000 would be provided via in-kind services from local businesses and organizations, like HealthLinc, the Minority Health Coalition, and Amereco Engineering – all of which, Kuss said, have committed to matches of $3,000.

A third lead-related ordinance up for public hearing Tuesday would establish a restricted, non-reverting fund, which would be where all monies from the grant would be received and disbursed.

The council meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.

According to Kuss, LeadSafe Michigan City proposes to initiate a new lead-reduction program and Healthy Homes interventions citywide to address neighborhoods with the highest incidence of childhood lead poisoning and/or the greatest risk of lead exposure based on state and local data. He said the primary source of lead contamination is lead paint, especially in older homes and primarily in rental units.

LeadSafe funds

The LeadSafe Michigan City initiative will use $2.3 million in HUD grant funds to:

n Make 120 units lead safe.

n Protect 105 children under the age of 6 from lead hazards.

n Screen 1,500 children through lead testing.

n Train six residents as Certified Community Health Workers.

n Train 360 individuals in either lead-safe cleaning practices or lead-safe work practices.

n Assist 30 Section 3-eligible individuals and companies with obtaining professional certification to perform lead remediation.

n Conduct 126 community outreach events.

n Conduct comprehensive Healthy Homes interventions in 90 units.

n Create the LeadSafe Michigan City Housing Registry and Program webpage.

n Reach nearly 2,000 residents over the grant duration.

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