Milwaukee County is sticking with steel panels for the facade work on the O’Donnell Park parking garage despite the objections of incoming County Executive Chris Abele.
Abele spokesperson Brandon Lorenz confirmed Abele opposed a steel facade replacing defective paneling because it would cost the county more money than simply repairing the cement on the structure. Abele, who will be sworn in as county executive Monday, has said he supported a $1.7 million concrete-based repair to the exterior.
Abele was not immediately available for comment.
The $2.9 million steel panel project could start as early as Friday after the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors’ 13-5 vote Thursday in favor of the steel facade.
Without a firm plan to redevelop the O’Donnell Park site on Milwaukee’s lakefront, county supervisors opted to endorse the pricier, long-term renovations to the parking garage rather than a cheaper quick fix.
Supervisor Pat Jursik was among those who had no faith that the O’Donnell site would be redeveloped within the next five years and recommended that the county invest the money to maintain the structure.
“If this facility, in fact, is closed within five years,” she said, “I will ask the county executive to name his charity, and I’ll make a $1,000 donation. That’s how convinced I am.”
Madison-based KBS Construction Inc. won the bid for the facade work, and project manager Joe Schuchardt said the board’s vote gave his team the green light to start work.
Jack Takerian, director of the county’s Department of Transportation and Public Works, has said he supported the cheaper, cement-based repairs — fixing minor cracks and imperfections on the exterior of the garage and staining the structure — but that he would go with whatever route the county chose.
Takerian did not immediately return calls Thursday afternoon.
Given that the project is being financed through bonds, Jursik said, the metal panels are a more cost-effective choice, and a new look will promote public confidence in the safety of the garage once it reopens in July.
The O’Donnell parking garage has been closed since June 24 when a 13 1/2-ton panel fell from the facade, killing 15-year-old Greenfield resident Jared Kellner and injuring two others.
While the initial cost of the metal replacements is $1.2 million more than the cement fix, long-term maintenance of the metal panels would be cheaper, according to an analysis by the county’s Finance and Audit Committee.
The metal system, according to the analysis, would last 25 years with minimal maintenance costs, while the cement would require about $150,000 to re-paint, re-coat and repair every five years.
“The bonds can be paid back over the lifetime of the facility, so to do metal panels is cost effective,” Jursik said. “To do a cheap, stucco finish on a building that will need repairs every five years is going to be cash money out of our parks budget.”