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Milwaukee County gauges transit center damage

Street level back side looking west up Clybourn St.

Officials have barricaded off Clybourne Street in back of the Milwaukee County Transit Center as they inspect the building's facades. (Photo by Corey Hengen)

By Justin Kern
Special to The Daily Reporter

Officials on Monday began determining the extent and cost of fixing the panels on the Milwaukee County Transit Center, one of two structures found by building inspectors to have problems during emergency inspections.

Those inspections were prompted after a 13-ton concrete panel fell from the ODonnell Park parking structure June 24, killing teenager Jared Kellner and injuring two others.

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker on Monday updated reviews of more than 100 county structures.

As for the transit center, the fences now barricading the area across the street from the O’Donnell structure offer peace of mind for the public until a fix can be found, Walker said.

“I don’t want that risk around with any other panels,” he said.

Some of the same firms worked on both the transit building and the O’Donnell Park parking structure, but with different teams and at different times, Walker said Monday. Also, the problems with panels at the transit building are related to freeze and thaw, which prompted movement of the concrete similar to the way an ice dam affects the roof of a house. The movement at the transit center, Walker said, is not tied to the way in which the panels were hung.

The county building is operated in conjunction with the Milwaukee County Transit System, which is under a separate insurance carrier, said County Public Works Director Jack Takerian.

The insurance company may call for its own review of the center and could contribute to any required fixes at that building, Walker said.

Walker on Monday also revealed structural problems inspectors found in a silo at a fish hatchery at the Milwaukee County Correctional Facility-South in Franklin. A follow-up review is under way to determine if the faulty concrete there should be removed or remediated, he said.

Overall, emergency inspections have been done on 95 of the 103 country structures targeted in the reviews, with one-third involved in some phase of a second review to verify architectural plans and structural stability. Walker said all of the reviews should be completed by the end of next week, a few weeks longer than initially suggested by the county.

Inspec Inc., Minneapolis, is using sonar to determine the integrity of the remaining panels on the O’Donnell Park building, which has been lined with protective fences since the June 24 fatal incident. Walker on Monday reiterated his claim the O’Donnell panels were “not installed the way they were intended.”

Representatives from Advance Cast Stone Co., Random Lake, the contractor in charge of the O’Donnell Park panel work done in the early 1990s, and the company’s attorney did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Separately, Graef-USA Inc., Milwaukee, is reviewing dozens of other county structures. Some large-scale and prominent buildings, such as the Milwaukee Public Museum, have not been assessed, according to information provided by the county executive’s office.

Takerian previously said the cost for the emergency inspections could be around $700,000, with more than half of that going toward reviews and decisions on the future of paneling at O’Donnell Park.

Walker on Monday also responded to a county supervisor’s criticism of a veto Walker made of $150,000 in the 2008 budget for a specific building assessment. Milwaukee County Supervisor Gerry Broderick, who was not at the conference Monday, knocked Walker for the veto, calling it “unfortunate,” according to a news release Monday.

Walker said the vetoed money was specifically for a review of the Milwaukee Public Museum, something he said was not needed because of other building assessments slated for that building in a long-term capital plan.

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