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Building Commission approves crime lab, other projects for capital budget (UPDATE)

MADISON (AP) — A new $75 million state crime lab and law enforcement center in the Milwaukee area and a 19th century-style brewery and beer garden at the Old World Wisconsin historic site were among the projects added to budget plans on Wednesday by the state Building Commission.

The commission approved all of the $803 million worth of projects sought by Gov. Scott Walker in his proposed 2017-19 capital budget. More than half of the new projects, about $450 million worth, would be paid for with new borrowing.

The crime lab would replace an existing 40,000-square-foot operation in Milwaukee. The new 150,000-square-foot lab would be in either Milwaukee County or Waukesha County.

It would include space for DNA testing, toxicology reports, forensic imaging and evidence processing. It would also house a state Department of Justice training center, a Division of Criminal Investigation field office and a regional office for the attorney general.

The project’s costs rose from $53 million last year to the estimated $75 million now. Attorney General Brad Schimel justified the increase in comments to Wisconsin Public Radio.

“We want to make sure we’re not coming back asking for more and more and more,” Schimel said. “So we kind of shot for the moon with it. Hopefully it will come in lower than that.”

One way the total cost could be decreased is through a sale of the state’s current 39,686-square-foot crime lab near the corner of West Lapham Boulevard and South 11th Street on Milwaukee’s south side.

Under a tentative agreement with the state, the construction of the new crime lab would be entrusted to a development team led by Wangard Partners, of Milwaukee. Other companies in the group include Milwaukee-based Venture Architects, Madison-based Affiliated Engineers, and Madison-based J.H. Findorff & Son.

In getting the state’s letter of intent for the project, the Wangard team beat out four competitor groups. They consisted of:

  • The Barry Co., WiRED Properties, J.P. Cullen & Sons, and Strang Inc.
  • CBC Real Estate Group, SmithGroupJJR, JE Dunn Construction, Hoefer Wysocki Architecture, and Cotter Consulting.
  • Medical College of Wisconsin Inc.; The Concord Consulting Group of Illinois; Zimmerman Architectural Studios; McClaren, Wilson & Lawrie Inc.; and Affiliated Engineers.
  • WEAS Development/C.D. Smith Construction, HGA/Mayer Helminiak Architects, Affiliated Engineers, and Kapur & Associates.

Elsewhere in the capital budget, Old World Wisconsin, in Eagle, won approval to work with the Museum of Beer and Brewing on a planned $1.6 million brewery-and-beer garden.

Also approved for the capital budget:

  • $52.2 million to renovate the former Columbia/St. Mary’s hospital complex at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
  • $33.5 million to repair Sandburg Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
  • $12.4 million for the state veterans home at King to improve water quality, the electrical system and cooking and meal delivery equipment.
  • $11 million to remove and replace the Little Falls Dam at Willow River State Park. The Department of Natural Resources determined in 2015 that the dam had to be replaced after weaknesses were found
  • $6 million, paid for with gifts, to renovate and expand the Cream Puff Pavilion at State Fair Park.
  • $5.5 million for upgrades to the veterans cemeteries at Union Grove and King.
  • $5 million to remodel and expand the 36-year-old La Crosse Center, which is used for conventions, meetings, and banquets.
  • $5 million for a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Innovation Center in Green Bay. The center will also house the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s new mechanical engineering degree program.
  • $3 million to construct a new filter/treatment building near wells with high levels of iron and manganese and make drinking water system improvements at the state prison in Fox Lake.

The commission also approved placing $361.3 million in a fund that could be tapped for projects not specifically enumerated. These could include various projects requested by the University of Wisconsin System. The university asked for nearly $795 million but was approved for only $128 million, although nearly $160 million in maintenance requests were moved to another part of the budget.

Two Democratic commission members — Rep. Dana Wachs, of Eau Claire, and Sen. Janis Ringhand, of Evansville — voted against denying seven building projects. Even so, those projects — at the UW System’s Milwaukee, Platteville, Eau Claire, Madison and La Crosse campuses — can still compete for the $361 million in money approved for all state agencies.

All other votes on the projects were unanimous.

The Daily Reporter associate editor Dan Shaw also contributed to this report.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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