$1.3 million committed to crumbling City Hall investigation

MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee Finance Committee is putting more money into finding out why pieces of City Hall started crumbling and falling off. They approved $1.3 million to investigate the problem.

The investigation will focus on whether a bad mix of grout was used during the renovation of City Hall. The city says they want the company who did the repairs, J.P. Cullen & Sons, to pay for the repairs.

Milwaukee's City Hall was repaired in 2008, and those repairs cost around $76 million. Now, the building is falling apart again, and many are wondering who is going to pay for repairs, this time around.

In February of 2011, a piece fell from the top of the building and hit a car parked below.  The city has now spent about $400,000 trying to figure out why the building continues to fall apart.

Alderman Bob Baumann is the Chair of the Public Works Committee. He says an investigation determined the problem has to do with the more than 13,000 terra-cotta pieces on the building, and the grout used to attach them. "There is a problem with the grout that was used to fill some of the hollow cavities in the terra-cotta units.  Just like in winter time, if you fill up a flower-pot with water and it freezes, the pot cracks and falls apart. That's exactly what's happening here," Baumann said.

The city says priority number one is keeping the public and city employees safe. The city removed some pieces from the building, and put up scaffolding to protect pedestrians and city employees around the building.

The next step is fixing the problem, and Baumann is proposing it's not the City of Milwaukee that foots the bill, that could be anywhere from $9 million to $15 million. "I know I can speak for the entire Common Council and the mayor. We expect to get the building we paid for and we don't intend to pay twice," Baumann said.

J.P. Cullen & Sons out of Janesville is the company that did the work.  In a statement, the company said: "It is important to have all of the facts and best information available in order to make a determination on this issue.  The preliminary report indicates that J.P. Cullen & Sons met the specifications outlined for this project."

Milwaukee Common Council President Willie Hines issued a statement on the City Hall situation Wednesday. In the statement, he said: "The city will consider all of its legal remedies. However, legal issues may take a substantial time to resolve. City Hall is a beautiful landmark building, and an iconic symbol of Milwaukee. It is a building of the people, and when using taxpayer dollars for capital improvements, we must act responsibly. The Public Works Committee and the Common Council are working to ensure that any problems with the building are addressed appropriately and with safety as the foremost concern."