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The Not So Green Greenhouses

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on March 16, 2010

From Milwaukee County First:

We have seen a pattern of willful neglect from the current county executive that has never been seen before.

We have seen how the historic Eschweiler Buildings are being left to rot, presumably so they can be condemned and razed for his developer pals to take them over.

We have seen how the parks and parks facilities have been allowed to go for years and years without the needed maintenance and repairs.  The bill to restore these once gemstones of Milwaukee County’s green necklace is over $238 million.

Even Walker’s own palace, the Milwaukee County Courthouse, is literally falling apart before our very eyes due to poor upkeep.

Recently, we have learned that this pattern of neglect and disregard appears to be very pervasive and has touched almost all aspects of the county.

This time, it is the Milwaukee County greenhouses.  The County greenhouses, located in Wauwatosa, north of Watertown Plank Road and west of the freeway, have been vital to making some of Milwaukee County’s major attractions what they are, while saving taxpayers a lot of money.

The greenhouses have been used to raise plants for the Mitchell Park Conservatory (aka The Domes) and the parks.  This saved a lot of money due to not having to buy these plants from a private company and then having to worry if the plants were healthy or not.

They would also sell some of the flowers and other plants to various municipalities in and around Milwaukee County.  At the end of every May, the County would further enhance their revenue by having a giant plant sale.

In their day, the greenhouses would look like this:

How the greenhouses should look

or this:

Another look at a greenhouse

Unfortunately, Scott Walker did not care about how the greenhouses saved tax payer dollars or actually generated revenue.   Now there are only a few that are still functioning and kept up.

What Walker did care about is the fact that he had found someone who wanted to buy the land for development.

That someone was Wisconsin Lutheran College, who wanted the land to build an expansion to its athletic complex.   One of the problems was that the land would be sold for less than market value because Walker didn’t add in the cost of remediation and clean up:

The project would include cleanup of asbestos in the old greenhouses and cleaning contaminated soil.

The president of Local 882 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees said the county will lose money on the transaction because the county agreed to share the cost of environmental remediation with the college and will spend $1.5 million on the new greenhouse. Kurt Zunker also said the county is selling the land for less than its market value.

Zunker objects to Walker including the matter in his capital budget that is unlikely to receive scrutiny at the County Board committee level.

“The question is what is the county getting out of this deal?” Zunker said.

The greenhouses weren’t sold, but some other parks buildings were and were razed.  The county did lose out on the deal when the cost of the clean up was included.  On the bright side, until the county grounds deal, it slowed the County Board down for a little while from just rubber stamping any of these land sell offs.

On the downside, Walker continued to ignore and neglect the greenhouses leading to their disrepair.  Here are some pictures of how many of the greenhouses look now:

This greenhouses is boarded up like the Eschweiler Buildings

The lack of maintenance and repair is obvious

Note the broken panels

Can you imagine how much heat is being lost through these broken windows?

The inside of one of the greenhouses – overgrown with weeds.

More weeds

Things are so bad, snow was accumulating on the inside of this building.

Expensive equipment allowed to go to waste due to a lack of protection

This picture has it all: The weeds, the broken glass, and the snow inside the building.

It is sad when one thinks about all of these county treasures that have been allowed to falter and rot for no good reason.

We all have years of hard work and great expense to get Milwaukee County back to being a world class place to live, to work and to play.


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