Benton Harbor mayor sees bright future during state of the city address, as residents work to move past water crisis

NOW: Benton Harbor mayor sees bright future during state of the city address, as residents work to move past water crisis

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – “The state of the city is strong,” said Mayor Marcus Muhammad in his state of the city address, where he saw a bright future for Benton Harbor.

He told residents “We’ve come through a financial crisis. We’ve come through an educational crisis. We’ve come through a water crisis. But we’ve come out as a shining light and example that the nation is studying.”

Over the past year and a half, the city dealt with contamination in its water, due to thousands of old, lead pipes. Residents relied on bottled water as crews worked across the city to rip out and replace the old water lines with safe, copper pipes.

While the crisis prompted anger and frustration, Mayor Muhammad said it was the community’s ability to work together that helped them get through it.

“Everybody working together to solve a problem,” he said. “That’s what it’s going to take to move the city of Benton Harbor forward.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by Benton Harbor Team Solutions, spearheaded by Princella Tobias, to make sure every Benton Harbor resident gets their home inspected, in the final push to remove all lead fixtures— from paint and plumbing to lead windowsills and doorframes—to prevent further contamination.

“It may take another year for this to actually happen,” said Tobias. “Because we need every single resident. This is what the mayor says ‘I want every single resident to have their home and the lead fixed!’”

While the city moves past the lead crisis, Mayor Muhammad looked to the future, as the city plans to spend millions of dollars to revitalize public parks, fix sidewalks and replace dated fire hydrants, as millions more plan to be invested in projects all over the city—including a $35 million, 55-unit housing project, with a grocery store, on the old Mercy Hospital site.

“It’s not only coming, but it’s here,” said Muhammad. “And we as residents of Benton Harbor, we have to be positioned, and we have to qualify ourselves, because the work has to be done impeccably. Because that’s what the people expect. When I left Flint, the mayor of Flint told me—‘take these words: do it right the first time,’ he said, ‘because it’s not better the second time.’”

“God bless you and god bless the city of Benton Harbor,” Muhammad concluded.

The city still has 27 lead pipes that still need to be replaced.

The city is also asking residents to sign up for a free, home lead inspection if they have not done so already. You can do so online here. 

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