Insurance payments stop as work to repair Co. Courthouse continues

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- A fire destroyed the Milwaukee County Courthouse's electrical systems last summer, and work is still underway to fix it. Now, FOX6 News has learned checks from the insurance company have suddenly stopped -- and there are fears taxpayers could be on the hook.

A chainlink fence marks the area at the Milwaukee County Courthouse where work is still underway after an electrical fire over six months ago. The fire destroyed crucial equipment that powers the building, and the County is in the process of replacing it.

County Executive Chris Abele is commending the work done so far. Millions have been paid -- with not a dime coming from taxpayers' pockets. That's because the County's insurance company is picking up the tab.

"Every time we've submitted an invoice to the fund, the fund has paid it," Abele said.

That is, until recently.

County officials admit the insurance company is delaying payments until they complete their investigation into what caused the fire.

To avoid late paychecks for workers, Abele is asking the County to front the money.

"What we're making sure is that the we're going to be able to pay the workers, to make your County Courthouse safe now," Abele said.

Documents obtained by FOX6 News show Abele is asking for $7 million to pay for past and future bills. Eventually, that money would be paid back by the insurance company.

Milwaukee County Supervisor John Weishan is against the plan. He fears the payments are a huge risk for taxpayers.

"Milwaukee County is not in the business of giving insurance companies interest free loans. We've paid our insurance premiums on time. The Abele administration said all of this would be paid for by the insurance company. Let's see them pay for it," Weishan said.

The Abele administration says it is irresponsible not to pay workers on time. They say they are confident they'll be paid back in full.

According to the County Administrator, insurance has paid $9.5 million so far. The total cost of the project is suspected to surpass the $16 million mark in the next 90 days.