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Walker recommends $803 million for state building projects (UPDATE)

Gov. Scott Walker released capital budget plans Tuesday calling for $75 million to go to a replacement of the Department of Justice’s Milwaukee crime lab while delaying various UW System projects.

All told, the governor’s proposed capital budget calls for approving just over $800 million worth of building projects. If given the green light without changes, that request would be down from about $848.7 million in the current budget and $1.45 billion in the previous budget.

The biggest proposal up for approval in the governor’s capital budget is a $75 million request to either put up or renovate a building to provide 150,000 square feet of space to house the Department of Justice’s crime lab, a Division of Criminal Investigation field office, a training center and various other law enforcement-related operations in southeast Wisconsin.

The lab would be used to analyze controlled substances and produce toxicology reports, process DNA samples and perform various sorts of forensic tests, among other things. The new building would replace the current 39,686-square-foot crime lab near the corner of West Lapham Boulevard and South 11th Street.

The state issued a request for proposals last fall seeking developers who would be willing to undertake the crime-lab building as a private project that could eventually either be leased or sold to the state. State officials announced in a letter dated Feb. 15 that a development team led by Wangard Partners, of Milwaukee, has been chosen for the project. Still, the state merely has a letter of intent with the company, not a contractual agreement.

Another big proposal to make the governor’s plans is a proposed $65 million, 163,400-square-foot replacement of the Milwaukee State Office Building at 819 N. 6th St. Walker’s budget would set $4 million aside for land acquisition and site development for that project.

A request for proposals would then be put out in April 2018 and construction would start a year later. Bonding that has already been authorized but not used – rather than new debt – would be used for the project.

Also included in the governor’s plans:

  • A nearly $24.2 million National Guard Readiness Center in Appleton.
  • About $22.2 million for cell-hall improvements at the Green Bay Correctional Institution.
  • $2.4 million to improve water quality at the veterans home at King, in response to residents and critics worried about the level of lead found in the water as a result of corrosion of the plumbing system. Overall, Walker is proposing about $14 million in new capital spending at King.
  • Nearly $52.2 million for a renovation of UW-Milwaukee’s Northwest Quadrant.
  • Nearly $28.6 million for utility-corridor improvements and a chiller-plant upgrade at UW-Whitewater.
  • And $33.5 million for a renovation of UW-Milwaukee’s Sandburg Hall.
  • $5 million for a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Innovation Center in Green Bay. The center will also house UW-Green Bay’s new mechanical engineering degree program.
  • $5 million to remodel and expand the 36-year-old La Crosse Center which is used for conventions, meetings, and banquets.
  • $11 million to remove and replace the Little Falls Dam at Willow River State Park.


Left on the cutting-room floor, though, were various UW-System projects, including a proposed $35.9 million renovation of Wyllie Hall at UW-Parkside, a $63.5 million extension and renovation of UW-Eau Claire’s Hass Fine Arts Center and a nearly $42 million student health and wellness center at UW-Stevens Point. Of the nearly $794.5 million worth of projects the UW-System had sought approval for, Walker recommended only about $128.3 million, although an additional request for nearly $160 million worth of repairs was simply moved to another part of the budget.

The governor also rejected about $93 million in projects at UW-Madison.

“We appreciate the funding the Governor provided in his budget which will allow us to make general repairs across the UW System, as well as update the technology our students are using in the classroom,” UW President Ray Cross said in an official statement. “We carefully developed a reasonable capital budget plan to perform a limited amount of work each year at a steady pace. The longer we delay these critical repairs, the more it ultimately costs students and taxpayers in the end.”

The state’s current capital budget saw similar cuts as Walker and lawmakers struggled to reduce the state’s reliance on debt. The new budget would authorize only $450 million worth of new borrowing, up from $101.2 million in the current budget but down from $1.15 billion in the previous budget.

The governor’s proposal also includes $361.3 million for the maintenance and repair of state buildings and related infrastructure. That amount is down from the nearly $535.7 million state agencies had requested for those purposes.

Walker’s administration came under fire last year following reports that UW-System buildings and infrastructure are in need of hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of repairs.

The state Building Commission is scheduled to meet in March to vote on the recommendations.

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to state that a new Milwaukee State Office Building was included in the governor’s plans.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

About Dan Shaw, [email protected]

Dan Shaw is the associate editor at The Daily Reporter. He can be reached at [email protected] or at 414-225-1807.

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