MADISON (AP) — Efforts to restore and clean up the state Capitol after last year's demonstrations cost about $200,000, far less than a state official's widely ridiculed estimate of $7.5 million, according to new figures reported Thursday.
The cost included payment for cleaning walls, reseeding grass and hiring a consultant, according to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report.
The cost became an issue on March 3, 2011, when Gov. Scott Walker's administration was in court fighting a lawsuit that sought to open the building to the public. A Department of Administration official claimed in court that protesters had already done $7.5 million in damage to the building and grounds.
The next day, however, the Walker administration acknowledged it didn't have much to back up that claim.
The damage was related to a nearly month-long protest that saw the sustained daily demonstrations of tens of thousands of protesters surrounding the state Capitol. Daily rallies on the Capitol grounds reduced the lawn to patches of muddy grass from the sheer amount of foot traffic.
Several thousand protesters also flooded the Capitol rotunda daily, with many setting up camp under the dome and staying the night. The Capitol walls were filled with signs affixed with blue painters' tape, which protesters used to avoid damaging the marble. Despite a handful of arrests over the course of the demonstrations, protesters maintained a peaceful presence throughout and made efforts to clean portions of the building nightly.
DOA Secretary Mike Huebsch originally claimed that tape used to hang signs throughout the Capitol building may have damaged marble stones. A memo from DOA's historic preservation officer Dan Stephans estimated it could cost as much as $500,000 for an estimate of the damage, another $6 million for professional restoration work on the tape-affected marble and $1 million to repair damage to the Capitol grounds.
Stephans acknowledged in the memo that the numbers were an "estimated guess." An open-records request by the Journal Sentinel revealed the estimate was based on a few of Stephans' handwritten estimates on a single sheet of notebook paper.
Department of Administration spokeswoman Jocelyn Webster had no comment on the difference between the estimate and the actual spending, although she said she thinks the costs were still significant.
As of March 15, the state had spent $197,459 on cleanup. Webster said that figure is close to final, though the state might still spend another $20,000 in landscaping work.
The main cost of the demonstrations involved the more than $9 million paid to have law-enforcement officers from around the state provide security.
The main cleanup costs included:
- $65,000 to reseed grass and replace trampled shrubbery;
- $43,520 to pay three workers to remove tape residue from the Capitol walls;
- $30,504 for overtime paid to custodial workers;
- $17,500 to remove marker stains from walls and replace some damaged stone; and
- $13,750 in consultant fees to initially assess the damage and estimate restoration costs.
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