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County picks stucco for O’Donnell facade

The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors voted Thursday to go with a stucco facade at the O'Donnell Park parking garage. The structure has been closed since June 24 when a 13 1/2-ton piece of the facade fell off the building, killing one and injuring two. (File photo by Kevin Harnack)

By Jack Zemlicka

Milwaukee County is shedding the metal and glass facade for the O’Donnell Park parking garage and the extra $1.2 million cost of the panels.

The decision is in keeping with new County Executive Chris Abele’s veto of the panels, which the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors approved April 21. Some supervisors, who shifted their votes Thursday to sustain Abele’s veto, said they sided with him because they wanted to set a good tone with a new executive.

“Overriding the veto would get us off to a less-than-desirable start with the county executive,” Supervisor Gerry Broderick said.

But some on the board still questioned the short- and long-term savings of the stucco finish on the facade, which is estimated at $1.7 million compared to the $2.9 million glass and metal panel exterior.

Supervisor Michael Mayo said the county already spent between $500,000 and $750,000 on the decorative glass and metal panels, and he said he wanted to know how the county could recover that expense.

Jack Takerian, director of the county’s Department of Transportation and Public Works, said he had not received invoices from the project. He said if any invoices came in, he would work with manufacturers to iron out a refund for the county.

Takerian said he planned to issue a change order for a stucco exterior Friday with parking garage contractor, Madison-based KBS Construction Inc., which has not started work on the facade. KBS won the job with a bid of $1.192 million for the metal panel job.

“I think the decision of a stucco finish is something we originally looked at as a base bid,” Takerian said, “and it’s something we’re going to move forward on.”

The project will entail repair of minor cracks and imperfections on the exterior of the garage and staining of the garage once the existing panels are taken down.

Takerian said completion of the project was targeted for July 1.

The O’Donnell parking garage has been closed since June 24 after a 13 1/2 ton panel fell from the facade, killing 15-year-old Greenfield resident Jared Kellner and injuring two others.

Other supervisors who voted in favor of Abele’s plan still expressed concern that unless the county sells or redevelops the property within five years, maintenance costs of the stucco facade will eliminate the initial savings.

The metal system was projected to last 25 years with minimal maintenance costs, while the cement would require about $150,000 to re-paint, re-coat and repair the exterior every five years.

Broderick said he still was skeptical the county would realize the savings of the stucco finish, but said he opted to side with Abele “after eight years of dealing with a county executive who viewed compromise as failure.”

Abele spokesperson Brandon Lorenz said there was no guarantee the county would sell or redevelop the site, but he said given the budget crunch facing the county now, the board made the right decision.

“The whole point is finding a better long-term use for the site,” he said. “In this current fiscal environment, it’s important to hold down nonessential spending.”

Supervisor Pat Jursik, who originally supported the metal panels, said the agreement bodes well for more substantial discussions that were sure to take place regarding the county budget.

“To put it bluntly,” she said, “we’re not going to be able to afford too many disagreements when we’re facing $25 million in overall cuts.”

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