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Yet Another County Building Is In The News

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on August 4, 2010

Earlier this year, part of the Courthouse’s cornice fell.  Fortunately, no one was injured.

Last month, O’Donnell Park was the scene of a horrific tragedy when a 27,000 pound concrete facade fell, striking three pedestrians.  One of the pedestrians, a teenage boy, was killed.  Another pedestrian lost part of her leg.

Last weekend, a fiber cement wall board fell at the airport and hit a young man on the head, leaving  a six inch gash.

Earlier this week, it was reported that the engineering company hired by Walker had inspected 66 county buildings.  Out of those 66 buildings, 26 of them need to have work done or required further investigation.  Eight of the 26 needed immediate attention.

Now, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting that the county had to close off part of the Transit Center due to another problem with the facades:

Building inspectors suspect several precast concrete panels on the downtown Milwaukee County Transit Center may have shifted, triggering further investigation and fencing off of the Clybourn Ave. side of the building, county Public Works Director Jack Takerian said Wednesday.

“Several panels on the very top have shifted outward by a couple of inches,” Takerian said. That movement is at odds with plans for the building, he said. The panels in question are about 30 feet wide and 4 feet high.

“There are some concerns those panels have shifted over time,” Takerian said.

The problem was discovered Tuesday by inspectors hired by the county to review the facades of about 100 county buildings. The work was ordered by County Executive Scott Walker following the June 24 collapse of a concrete panel from the façade of the O’Donnell Park structure, which killed a 15-year-old boy and injured two others.

The Transit Center was built by a different company than the one that build O’Donnell Park.  There is no indications at this time that there was a flaw in the construction.  The article indicates that the engineers are more concerned about “welded attachments.”

What makes this so vitally important is that these facades, unlike the ones on O’Donnell Park, are also serve a structural purpose.

There are too many buildings showing signs of distress for this to be blamed solely on design and/or construction problems.  The different buildings are different ages and were designed and built by different people.  The only thing in common is the maintenance of these buildings, or the lack thereof.

What should also raise a red flag for an objective observer would be the fact the group One Wisconsin Now has found that Scott Walker had vetoed $150,000 dollars that would have gone to the county’s building inspection program.  In the article reporting this, Walker refuted those claims.  However, in a follow up on their own site, Anna Landmark of OWN, raises some very interesting points and questions about Walker’s rebuttal.

All of this is inconclusive at this point, but it does raise enough questions that would justify the County Board in taking action to have the O’Donnell Park tragedy, and subsequent actions taken by Walker, to be independently investigated.


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