Deconstruction Contractor Delaying Work
City's program beset by delays. The latest is a contractor not showing up for work.
The idea behind deconstruction sounds simple. Instead of demolishing homes and sending the remains to a landfill, the city could create jobs, save the environment and possibly save money by having contractors with teams of entry-level employees dissemble or “deconstruct” homes with the materials being sold for reuse, offsetting the increased labor costs.
But the city’s experience is proving the concept anything but simple. A deconstruction ordinance was first approved in late 2017, but the city has now entered year two of a suspension of the requirement that private homeowners deconstruct properties, because high-priced contractor bids have made the program too expensive.
On the public side, the city has hired a private contractor, Spencer Renovation & Construction, to deconstruct 50 properties. After months of delays, described as “logjams with paperwork” by one alderman, that work got underway in November. A press conference with council members Robert Bauman, Milele A. Coggs and Russell W. Stamper, II was held inside the first home Spencer’s crew was deconstructing. Firm president Billy Spencer said his crew would disassemble a house every eight days, yielding up to $15,000 in materials.
“What seems to be the problem?” asked Alderman Robert Bauman at a meeting of the Joint Committee on Redevelopment of Abandoned and Foreclosed Homes.
“We can’t seem to get him to keep steadily working,” said DNS operations director Thomas G. Mishefske. He said Spencer has had his team performing privately-contracted work. “He’s not being very responsive to us.”
“A few days can go by with no one even there?” asked Bauman. Yes, said Mishefske.
DNS was scheduled to meet with Spencer on Friday. “He called earlier in the day, but didn’t show up for the meeting,” said DNS supervisor Chris Kraco.
Spencer is storing reclaimed materials at a Department of Public Works yard, and Mishefske said DNS would like to walk through it with him to see what he has in inventory. DNS said the non-profit Community Warehouse is interested in acquiring some of the materials. Spencer has also been selling the materials directly.
“Of course this behavior isn’t unheard of for contractors,” said Bauman of Spencer’s delays. The city, and a host of others in Wisconsin, have had poor experiences with contractors working on bridges delaying the projects to work on better-paying projects. Milwaukee, in response, has increased its penalties for delay.
What about penalties for delay in Spencer’s deal? Mishefske said there aren’t strict penalties, but DNS has divided the up-to $1.2 million contract into quarters. Spencer is scheduled to complete the first quarter and deconstruct 13 homes by April.
Spencer did not respond to a request for comment.
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More about the Deconstruction Ordinance
- Eyes on Milwaukee: City Moves to Fire Deconstruction Firm - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 2nd, 2020
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Deconstruction Contractor Delaying Work - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 27th, 2020
- Eyes on Milwaukee: City Deconstruction Delayed Through 2020 - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 14th, 2020
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Deconstruction Effort Is Underway - Jeramey Jannene - Nov 7th, 2019
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Deconstruction Program Expected to Restart Next Week - Jeramey Jannene - Oct 8th, 2019
- City Starts Over on Deconstruction - Graham Kilmer - Jan 9th, 2019
- First Buildings Deconstructed Under New Law - Graham Kilmer - Jun 29th, 2018