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Elevator work falls with rest of industry

Milwaukee Elevator Inspector Eric Upchurch checks elevator machinery in a downtown office building at 250 E. Wisconsin Ave. Every functioning elevator in the city gets a once-over by inspectors who inspect engines and check the cables.  The Daily Reporter photo by Sean Ryan

Milwaukee Elevator Inspector Eric Upchurch checks elevator machinery in a downtown office building at 250 E. Wisconsin Ave. Every functioning elevator in the city gets a once-over by inspectors who inspect engines and check the cables. The Daily Reporter photo by Sean Ryan

Sean Ryan
sean.ryan@dailyreporter.com

Elevator work is going down with the rest of the construction trades in Milwaukee despite a city inspection program that requires regular upkeep.

There are not many jobs to build new elevators because of the dearth of construction projects in Milwaukee, said John Caruso, branch manager of KONE Inc., Milwaukee. Most of the work is in maintenance or renovations, he said.

KONE, for example, landed a contract to maintain elevators at the Milwaukee County Courthouse on an as-needed basis.

“I think the need shifts,” Caruso said. “I think owners are interested in maintaining and running what they have.”

The city’s enforcement of elevator codes, unfortunately, does not generate a lot of work, Caruso said.

“I can’t really say that,” he said. “It’s certainly a factor, but I really can’t say it has that much to do with our work.”

Some contractors track work opportunities by paying the city of Milwaukee a few hundred dollars to get a list of elevator work orders issued by the Department of Neighborhood Services, said Todd Weiler, the department’s public information coordinator. Required repairs can range from replacing elevator cables to fixing buttons that are not working. Door repairs — such as replacing sensors that detect whether a person is between the gates — also are common, Weiler said.

The city has three people on staff to inspect the 4,470 elevators in the city. Only 3,568 elevators are on the inspection list because some are in vacant buildings, and others are too new to warrant a yearly checkup, Weiler said.

In 2008, Milwaukee issued 129 orders, most of which called for elevator repairs with a handful issued to give inspectors access to buildings, said Rob Radmer, DNS’ electrical inspections supervisor. He said the department keeps a good working relationship with the 10 or 15 commercial elevator contractors in the region.

“The nice thing with the elevators is there are not many elevator contractors out there, so you are dealing with a select few,” Radmer said. “My elevator inspectors all came from the field, so they knew the contractors before they got here, so it works well.”

Yet working relationships do not always translate into work. Caruso said there are more opportunities in Madison because the city has more new construction.

“We’ve been able to keep our core crews working at this point,” he said.

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