Milwaukee County Supervisors Marina Dimitrijevic, Chris Larson, Johnny Thomas and John Weishan Jr. joined with members of the Service Employees International Union in a march Wednesday calling for a state investigation into the safety of the county’s buildings.
The supervisors said the county buildings have been neglected under the watch of Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, and they criticized Walker for giving a no-bid $300,000 contract to Graef engineers to conduct the county’s inspection of the buildings. Graef employees have donated nearly $15,000 to Walker’s campaign fund since 2002.
Walker ordered the inspections after a 15-year-old Jarred Kellner was killed on June 24 when 13-ton slab of concrete fell from the county’s parking structure beneath O’Donnell Park in downtown Milwaukee.
In response to the criticisms by the supervisors, Walker issued the following statement:
“It is despicable that anyone would use this tragedy for political purposes. Leadership of the County Board had been briefed on several occasions with updates on O’Donnell Park and on the facade inspections on other county structures. All other information related to the issue remains under investigation by the District Attorney and Office of the Sheriff. The inspection process for all county structures was announced by the County Board Chairman and myself and was accelerated to insure public safety. It was done with Milwaukee County-based Graef-USA, and the company contracted with ten local firms to assist in the inspections of more than 100 structures. A full report of the process was given to the leadership of the County Board. It is unfortunate that an extreme minority of County Board members chooses to ignore updates from their own leadership and staff. If they were serious about getting more information, they would wait until the full County Board meets on this matter. The only reason for their press conference is to try and score cheap political points because their attacks are far removed from the truth."
Milwaukee County Board President Lee Holloway issued the following statement on the issue:
“In light of the tragedy that took the life of a boy and injured two adults, including one severely, on June 24, 2010, I immediately called for a thorough review to make sure all of Milwaukee County’s buildings are safe. This request was prudent to help ensure that building facades do not pose any further risk to the public. The day after the O’Donnell tragedy, I called for an audit of maintenance across all Milwaukee County facilities to determine whether there are any concerns the County Board needs to address. In particular, the audit is focusing on any issues that may impact the health and safety of our citizens and visitors. This audit is currently underway and progressing. Five days later, the County Executive and I jointly announced that an independent external engineering firm would conduct a safety inspection of all County buildings. This firm is recognized as a leading national engineering consulting firm and is headquartered in Milwaukee County. These inspections are expected to conclude in August. All County Supervisors are members of the County Board Committee of the Whole, which I have called to meet on July 29, 2010 at 8:30 a.m. in Room 203-R of the Milwaukee County Courthouse to receive a thorough update on these safety inspections. This meeting will include information on the O’Donnell Park investigation, which could be discussed in closed session under state law. In the meantime, I encourage Supervisors to refrain from further comment until after they receive all the pertinent information.”
– BizTimes Milwaukee