MADISON, Wis. — Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, as part of his 2008 budget, vetoed an engineering position for the Milwaukee County Department of Public Works to handle county building oversight and inventory, claiming the move would result in a “tax levy savings of $150,000.” In light of the tragedy at the county’s O’Donnell Park garage, which took the life of a teenager and badly injured two others, Walker is now hastily pledging ten times that amount “¢ $1.5 million in 2011 – to do work which could have been done at fraction of that cost.
“We now see the tragic and shameful consequences of Scott Walker’s fiscal mismanagement,” said Scot Ross, One Wisconsin Now Executive Director. “Walker vetoed an engineering inspection position that would have provided oversight of building structural needs and possibly uncovered these looming threats to public safety.”
According to the budget amendment language (2008 Budget Amendment 1A1039), the inventory and assessment program had two phases running concurrently: “phase one is the digitization of the building plans and building systems inventory; phase two is the assessment of each building system and the equipment discovered during the phase one investigation. In 2008, phase one work will continue using Division staff and will concentrate on the remaining Parks Department buildings in addition to Fleet Management and the Public Museum.”
The critical engineering position was approved by the Milwaukee County Board for the 2008 budget, but Walker vetoed the $150,000 in funding. Walker’s veto message from November 7, 2007 on the item:
“I have vetoed this amendment entirely because there are sufficient resources in the Department of Public Works to continue work on this initiative. My veto of this item results in a tax levy savings of $150,000.”
Walker’s veto required a two-thirds majority to override and fell one vote short and the oversight funds were cut.
“How many accidents have to occur before Scott Walker takes an ounce of responsibility?” asked Scot Ross, One Wisconsin Now Executive Director. “Scott Walker has spent eight years cutting corners on Milwaukee County’s infrastructure to support his campaign grandstanding and at long last he needs to apologize for his endless mismanagement and start fixing the problems.”
The revelation about Walker’s veto comes after the third in a series of recent structural accidents involving Milwaukee County buildings, the most tragic being the accident at the county’s O’Donnell parking structure that took the life of a 15-year-old and seriously injured two others. The most recent accident happened Sunday in Mitchell Airport’s Concourse D and left a 17-year-old with a six-inch gash after he was struck in the head by the falling debris. WISN obtained the information from a Milwaukee County Sheriff’s report. [WISN-TV, 7/26/10]
In early March this year, no one was injured when a huge chunk of concrete fell from the facade of the Milwaukee County Courthouse, but little appears to have been done in response to this earlier incident. An extensive inspection of county buildings, which was undertaken only after the O’Donnell tragedy, found that at least 26 buildings are in need of repair, according to the Milwaukee Business Journal. [Business Journal, 7/26/10]
Walker also gave a no-bid $300,000 inspection contract for county building to a top campaign donor, Graef-USA. According to the Shepherd Express, Graef will not be inspecting the O’Donnell structure because it is listed as the “engineer of record” for the project, according to a memo sent by County Public Works Director Jack Takerian to Walker. [Shepherd Express, 7/16/10]
Only after all of these incidents did Walker announce Monday that he will include budget funds in 2011 to complete a “long assessment of major county buildings.”