Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Parks System Proposes Demolition Of Vacant Buildings

County Executive's 2024 budget proposal includes funding for demolition of unused, nuisance buildings.

By - Oct 5th, 2023 12:20 pm
Cupertino Park. Photo by Dave Reid.

Cupertino Park. Photo by Dave Reid.

In 2024, Milwaukee County Parks could begin knocking down some of the old, unused buildings that are considered a drag on the system’s finances.

County Executive David Crowley included $500,000 in his 2024 budget proposal for building demolition in the parks system. Unused buildings and structured that have attracted nuisance activity like graffiti and vandalism would be targeted for demolition.

The parks system has been underfunded for decades, leading to a massive infrastructure maintenance backlog verging on $500 million and a steadily decreasing workforce. The lack of staffing to program buildings or funds to maintain the structures is driving vacancy and disuse throughout the system.

There are recreational assets, bathrooms and buildings that haven’t been used in years, Deputy Parks Director James Tarantino said earlier this year. But the department still has to heat many of them in the winter to prevent the pipes from freezing.

“We devoted 82% of our major maintenance fund [in 2022] to deferred maintenance,” Tarantino said. “82% of the funding we have to improve the parks system… went to fixing what was broken.”

Parks is not a legally mandated service for the county — like the circuit court system — so it doesn’t receive operating assistance from the state nor a dedicated revenue stream from the county’s property tax levy. Parks staff have had to get creative over the past decade, focusing on money-making services to generate revenue for the system. The department now generates 50% of its own annual budget through services and amenities, like golf cart rentals and beer gardens.

According to Crowley’s budget narrative, the parks department plans to vet buildings and assets for their historical context before demolition. The parks staff would gather public input on an asset “as warranted.” Nothing would be knocked down or removed without approval by the Milwaukee County Board.

Demolishing some of the structures would yield more green space and reduce pavement in the system, according to the budget. It would also conserve resources “currently used to keep the building from becoming more of a public hazard.” Parks staff are regularly boarding up the buildings or removing graffiti.

Some assets identified in the budget proposal include the King Park skate shelter, Noyes Park tennis courts, Cupertino Park restrooms, Lincoln Park pump building, Meaux Park service building and the Hansen Park golf storage building.

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Categories: MKE County, Parks, Politics

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