Milwaukee County shouldn’t buy ‘cats in a bag’

    My grandfather was a little old Italian immigrant that peddled fruit with a horse and wagon. He would go every morning to buy his produce on commission row. My father tells a story that my grandfather would always open the wooden crates to examine the merchandise before he bought it.

    The guys at the commission houses would hate this and give my grandfather a hard time.

    So one day, my father asked my grandfather why he continually opened the crates when he knew it would aggravate the people. My grandfather replied, ‘I don’t buy cats in a bag. I want to know what I’m getting.’

    Last week, the Milwaukee County Board voted 11-8 to buy cats in a bag.

    The vote to stop considering moving the Behavioral Health Division to the former St. Michael Hospital site and instead build a new hospital on the County Grounds at this stage in the process is completely irresponsible.

    We have no idea what the cost will be to build a new hospital. County auditors are guessing that the figure could be $92.5 million but admit that number could increase by 20 to 40 percent. There are no architectural drawings, site analysis, soil testing or even a conceptual plan.

    The lack of all this vital information makes it impossible to place a price tag on the project, yet the board voted to go ahead with it anyway. Furthermore, closing the door on the St. Michael proposal before we have a chance to negotiate a final deal is premature.

    As it stands right now, the county can sign a contract to purchase a completely renovated St. Michael Hospital for $66 million or build a new hospital on the county grounds for an estimated $92 million to $120 million dollars.

    There may very well be some good reasons to keep the hospital on the County Grounds, and there are certainly many good questions that need to be answered regarding both options. Unfortunately, the board’s vote will cut off valuable discussion and lead us down a path that could potentially have the taxpayers paying tens of millions more for a new hospital than they should, or may frustrate the process so much, that nothing gets done, in which case the patients will suffer.

    As representatives elected to be responsible stewards of the taxpayer’s money, we need to reverse today’s decision. Buying cats in a bag was not an acceptable practice for my grandfather and it should not be an acceptable practice for Milwaukee County.

    Milwaukee County Supervisor Joe Sanfelippo represents the 17th District.

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