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Is a lack of maintenance causing Milwaukee to fall down?

By Joe Lanane

A report released Monday by the Milwaukee County Department of Audit revealed what everyone long suspected: Milwaukee’s public structures are in disrepair.

There is more than $193 million in necessary repairs needed on 521 Milwaukee County buildings inspected. Nearly one-quarter of the reported deficiencies are “currently critical,” which means structures pose an immediate safety risk, fail to comply with the American with Disabilities Act, or are deteriorating altogether — and, in some cases, all of the above.

The partial collapse of the O'Donnell Park parking structure is a constant reminder of the need to keep up on facility maintenance. (Staff photo by Joe Yovino)

The partial collapse of the O'Donnell Park parking structure is a constant reminder of the need to keep up on facility maintenance. (Staff photo by Joe Yovino)

Hundreds of immediate public safety hazards were identified, totaling $5.5 million in repairs. The report suggests a large portion of particularly critical repairs be addressed within a year, but those structures deemed most vulnerable should be county officials’ first priority.

The report blames spending cutbacks and a disorganized building inspection system for the poor conditions of county buildings. But since 2003, Milwaukee County has invested $891.2 in capital projects that address these issues.

While that number seems steep, consider this: More than 62 percent of that money has come from the past two years, according to the report, with nearly half coming from 2010 alone.

Jerry Heer, Milwaukee County audit director, said this suggests the county maintenance duties fell behind, and officials attempted to toss money at problems once deficiencies became too large to ignore.

“We don’t really do preventative maintenance,” Heer said. “We wait till things are really bad and need major repairs.”

What county officials can’t ignore is the public eyebrow raising that should stem from this report, which was initiated June 25, the day after a collapsed O’Donnell Park facade piece killed a teenager and injured two others.

That tragedy brought to light how serious the consequences of deferred maintenance can be. While this report does not specifically address what caused the O’Donnell Park tragedy, it does reveal an undeniable neglect of our county structures.

Coincidence or not?

Joe Lanane is a staff writer at The Daily Reporter. He can be reached at (414) 225-1806.

One comment

  1. The tragedy did not bring any light in regards to problems of deferred maintenance at O Donnell park. Everybody knows what failed at the Odonnell structure, it was not due to deferred maintenance, the structural report is a public document, why not provide a link to it in your story? You provide enough other links to non subject matter.

    One certainly cant argue the hundreds of other repairs needed around town, but the report is in from Odonnel. Another quick political shot from the unbiased Daily Reporter.

    No matter how hard you try before Tuesday Joe I doubt your man Barrett will make up 9 points.

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