Troy residents express concern over lead pipes, public safety, and ethics

Troy residents asked the City Council and City Administration questions at Thursday's council meeting.

The Republican-led council completed three meetings smoothly: a special meeting with the Department of Public Utilities regarding a combined sewer overflow project in cooperation with several other municipalities, a finance meeting and a regular meeting.

But residents were more concerned about issues that were not on the agenda.

Resident and attorney Greg Campbell-Cohen questioned the status of the lead pipe replacement program. Campbell-Cohen says the city has the capacity to replace more than double its current goal of 400 pipes this year. Last year, around 200 pipes were replaced. Lead is known to cause developmental delays in children.

“As far as I know, 400 pipes as a 2024 goal is embarrassing,” Campbell-Cohen said. “And I can continue to send FOIAs to the city and the DOH and send FOIAs to the EPA and, you know, talk to everybody out there to figure out what could be easily said to the public to explain these reasons for the decision.”

The city recently received $13 million in federal funding for the project. The grant follows a previous federal investment of $500,000 and millions from the American Rescue Plan Act.

Republican Mayor Carmella Mantello says the city is leading the way in replacement efforts compared to other municipalities in the state and is waiting for the money to be released.

“If we hire multiple contractors and put a bond together, it's not going to happen overnight, it's not going to happen in three months, because lead pipes can't be replaced unless it's super warm in the winter,” Mantello said. “We're going to keep going as long as we can. If we get over 400, that's great, but 400 is monumental.”

The city began inventorying and replacing its contaminated pipes last year when residents asked why the city had not spent $500,000 in state grant money to replace the old lead lines. Former Mayor Patrick Madden, a Democrat, told WAMC the city did not spend the money because the funds would be a drop in the bucket to solve the problem. After public comments, the city began the process with only 10 percent of the funds needed.

During the public forum, residents who belong to the North Central Community Solidarity Group, which aims to “educate, encourage and empower” people for positive social change, questioned whether the council “really” cares about its constituents. Frank Mayben is the leader of the grassroots group.

“Can we all please get the politics out of the way and just engage with the people of North Central so we can come together and show them we're in this together, because they don't believe it,” Mayben said. “Please believe it. I deal with this every day. I'm in there. I'm in the trenches. Every day. I'm the one they're trying to shoot. None of you on this forum are really there, right? We know this is a Black thing, right? Now, if we hear gunshots anywhere, we can bet 99 percent of the time that another Black family is in danger. OK, we've had enough. I went to 16 funerals last year.”

Mayben claims that the area does not receive as much investment as other parts of the city, such as the inner city.

Democratic Council President Sue Steele says the council is doing what it can to support voters and address their concerns.

“They had some very valid points,” Steele said. “None of us want to see more shootings. I didn't hear any solutions last night, and I would have liked to hear more of that. So maybe we need more community conversations about this. I believe our police department is doing a great job and trying their best. I'm certainly willing to provide more resources if that's what's needed. Troy and North Central are not isolated cases. This is a nationwide problem.”

Meagon Nolasco is the founder of Collar City Pride, a nonprofit that supports LGBTQ+ people, and she says Republican City Councilman Bill Keal's “no vote” during last month's finance meeting to recognize June as Pride month in the city was dangerous.

“Even a single black sheep in the group is a really alarming and dangerous thing,” Nolasco said. “Now that we've been informed, we're going to launch a campaign to make sure all First District voters know what Mr. Keal voted on. And I'm confident that next year, when elections come around, he'll at least be consistent.”

Mantello says she supports the effort.

“We want to make sure that everyone in Troy feels included and inclusive, that our diversity means so much to us. We are so proud of where we are here in Troy,” Mantello said. “So whatever someone wants to do to spread that message, we fully support it.”

In an email, Keal, who was absent from the meeting, said he had received messages of thanks from his constituents for voting against the bill.

The next regular meeting is scheduled for July 11.

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