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Home / Government / Milwaukee County board approves O’Donnell Park audit (UPDATE)

Milwaukee County board approves O’Donnell Park audit (UPDATE)

The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors voted 12-4 Thursday in favor of an audit of O’Donnell Park that will seek to revitalize the site as a publicly owned and operated asset.

“This will allow some independent, impartial eyes to look at everything surrounding the park and give us an opinion,” said Supervisor Pat Jursik, who sponsored the resolution. “I kept the language of the resolution fairly open-ended.”

Nonetheless, Supervisor Steve Taylor sponsored an amendment to broaden the audit’s focus to include public-private partnerships and potential private development. The amendment failed as a result of a tie vote.

The dispute over the park’s future influenced the board’s decision on Teig Whaley-Smith, who the board appointed to the position of director of the Department of Administrative Services, having previously served as the director of economic development for the county. Twelve supervisors voted in favor of the appointment, but four opposed it due to what they claimed was “misinformation” from Whaley-Smith relating to O’Donnell Park.

“Some of us came to understand in the course of the O’Donnell sale that inconvenient questions went only half answered, or negatives attached to the proposal were softened, or obfuscated, or omitted altogether,” said Supervisor Gerry Broderick. “It left me with the sense that, despite all of his highly detailed responses, I wasn’t getting the complete and straight picture to some very important questions.”

Broderick said he did not vote for Whaley-Smith’s appointment because Broderick claimed Whaley-Smith undervalued the park, failed to timely and properly disclose the nature of certain deed restrictions, and was misleading in describing the “useful life” of the parking lot in the structure.

A separate vote regarding the creation of a task force to assess necessary repairs to the park, which included a substitute resolution to declare the park “surplus” property and issue a request for proposals for private redevelopment, was referred back to the Parks Committee.

Also on Thursday, the board voted to renovate Estabrook Dam rather than demolish it, as previously planned. The measure was included as an amendment in a larger resolution directly paying for more than 400 capital projects (with bond financing later reimbursing the county), including new county transit buses, highway and bridge improvements, and renovations at the War Memorial.

Prior to the vote, County Executive Chris Abele pledged to veto the entire resolution if the amendment was adopted, delaying all of the capital projects involved.

The board on Thursday also voted 14-2 to enact a compromise measure regarding over-payments to the county’s pension plan, retroactively legitimizing previous over-payments while reducing future payments to proper levels.

About Matt Taub, [email protected]

Matt Taub is the Milwaukee city beat reporter. He can be reached at [email protected] or 414-225-1820.

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