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Walker Had Been Warned About Courthouse Cornice

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on April 4, 2010

From Milwaukee County First:

This is a situation that is getting worse with each passing week.

First, it was reported that about a month ago, a large hunk of the cornice that surrounds the top of the Milwaukee County Courthouse fell off.

This was followed up with a report that the courthouse was surrounded by scaffolding to protect people in case more of the facade fell off, and that repairs could take as long as five and a half months to complete.  County officials were hoping that the insurance company would be paying for all but $50,000, but that has not been confirmed.  I bet the insurance company will be taking a close hard look at the news that is being reported today.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Steve Schultze did some excellent investigative reporting and found that Scott Walker and the county had actually received an engineering report in 2008 which highlighted the dangers of the cornice and other needed repairs:

An engineering firm told Milwaukee County in 2008 that the courthouse needed $350,000 in repairs to make the building safe, including fixing the upper portion of the facade from which a chunk fell off last month.

Among several suggested courthouse repairs, the firm called for spending $125,000 for “securing and sealing the entire cornice flashing.”

That and other repairs were deemed “necessary to ‘make safe’ facade conditions that are exhibiting significant deterioration and/or distress,” according to an Oct. 27, 2008, letter to the county from engineering consultant Graef, Anhalt, Schloemer and Associates.

Scott Walker, as well as all Milwaukee County tax payers and citizens, are darn lucky no one got hurt in the falling stone.  But to have been warned about the facade, and specifically the cornice, being unsafe and yet doing nothing about it is unconscionable.

The article goes on to show how little Walker thinks of Milwaukee County citizens and tax payers:

County spending on major maintenance dropped from nearly $800,000 in 2000 to just more than $114,000 last year.

That’s an 86% drop in funding to keep people safe from collapsing courthouses and maintaining other county buildings and assets.  And if that block had actually hit someone, either injuring or killing them, that would have been one heckuva lawsuit to try to defend against.

It should also be noted that Supervisor Mark Borkowski shows an alarming amount of hypocrisy and flippancy in his statements:

County Supervisor Mark Borkowski said the incident wasn’t surprising, considering the cutbacks in county spending.

“We’ve been deferring maintenance left, right and sideways, all over Milwaukee County,” said Borkowski, vice chairman of the board’s Transportation and Public Works Committee. “Who’s kidding who? Something is going to happen eventually.”

He said he didn’t recall that supervisors were told of the cornice problem outlined by the engineering firm. Even if they were, he questioned whether the board would have spent the money on the repair.

“You roll the dice on this maintenance stuff, and eventually it’s going to come up snake eyes,” Borkowski said.

First of all, Borkowski almost always votes in Walker’s favor on spending issues.  For him to complain about deferred maintenance when he chose to vote for the deferral is absolutely indefensible in its hypocrisy.

And to be so nonchalant and cavalier about what could have easily been a fatal incident causes one to wonder if he is at all concerned about making responsible decisions as an elected official, or if he is only worried about appeasing special interest groups.

On and end note, please remember, if you have any business at the courthouse, please consult with our Survival Guide to Scott Walker’s Courthouse to increase your chances of making it in and out alive and in one piece.


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