Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele won't be able to attend public hearing on Domes

MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele says he will not be able to make a public hearing scheduled for Wednesday evening, February 24th to discuss the future of the Mitchell Park Domes.

Abele said in a statement Tuesday, February 23rd that he will not be at the public hearing due to a previously scheduled commitment in his role as treasurer of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America Board of Governors.

Abele said he regrets that he cannot personally attend the hearing -- but said he knows Milwaukee County will be well-represented at the hearing.

In advance of the hearing, Abele said this in a statement:

“It’s great that as the public gathers (Wednesday) to begin our community discussion on the long-term future of the Domes it is with the confidence that we have a definitive timeline for safely re-opening the Domes, beginning with the Show Dome on May 1st, as part of a $1 million repair plan I announced (Monday).

The Show Dome is the most accessible and most utilized Dome, and it will allow for dozens of weddings to be held that had been scheduled at the Domes, which is why we will reopen it first. Engineers have been studying options since last July that will keep the public safe from falling debris while also protecting the plants and maintaining the beauty of the Domes. They've identified a short-term fix that is sustainable for the next several years that meets all those criteria.

Last year I budgeted $500,000 for repairs at the Domes and that money will allow us to complete the work on the Show Dome. I’ve asked my partners on the County Board to now authorize an additional $500,000 so that we can fund the repairs needed to safely reopen the Tropical and Arid Domes, and I have every confidence that they will do so as quickly as possible since the Domes are such an important cultural asset for us all.

I look forward to hearing both the Board's good ideas and what the community has to say on the Domes and will continue to solicit feedback from the public in the coming weeks and months. We still need to discuss, as a community, a long-term plan for the future of the Domes. I look forward to continuing this dialogue.”

Senator Chris Larson, who is running against Abele in the race for Milwaukee county executive WILL be attending the public hearing Wednesday evening.

Milwaukee County Board Chairman Theo Lipscomb has urged the public to come to the public hearing at the annex greenhouse adjacent to the Domes which begins at 6:00 p.m. Wednesday.

Lipscomb released the following statement to FOX6 News on Monday:

The Committee of the Whole of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on the future of the Domes at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, February 24th at the annex greenhouse adjacent to the Domes.

“We want to engage the community in a conversation on the closure of the Domes, and we invite County Executive Chris Abele and Parks Director John Dargle to the table to present their views on the immediate and long-term future of these Milwaukee County treasures,” said Milwaukee County Board Chairman Theodore Lipscomb, Sr. “We want to have an open and transparent discussion on the future of the Domes.”

We are just receiving initial details of their short-term plan to re-open one Dome, and the administration’s long-term plan for all three still is unclear.

Lipscomb invites the public to hear directly from the county executive on his calculation that rehabilitation of the Domes could cost $70 million.

Lipscomb said the Domes are the most demonstrable current example of the effects of deferred maintenance on our parks. He added that the board acted to provide $500,000 in 2015 for netting for public safety.

“The administration did not act, and now we have chunks of concrete falling from the structures,” Lipscomb said. “This administration has shown a callous disregard of our parks, and the Domes are just one example.”

In addition, the board in July of 2015 authorized an expenditure of $5 million for parks infrastructure projects not eligible for general obligation bond funding. The executive vetoed the measure, calling the expenditure “flippant and irresponsible.” The board overrode the veto and in a subsequent September action allocated $500,000 from that appropriation to the Domes. The county executive refused to sign that measure.

“The executive apparently thinks it is ‘flippant and irresponsible’ to protect our parks,” Lipscomb said. “It will be interesting to hear from the public whether they agree.”

Subsequent to the public hearing, the board’s Committee on Parks, Energy and the Environment will meet on March 8th in order to receive an action report from the administration on the Domes.