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State Capitol cleanup costs less than initial estimate

MADISON -- Cleaning and restoring the state Capitol after last year's massive protests will cost about $200,000, according to the state Department of Administration, a total millions of dollars less than a state official's controversial initial estimate of $7.5 million.

The costs are not yet final but include what has been spent by the Division of State Facilities on cleanup linked to last year's protests through March 15, said Jocelyn Webster, a DOA spokeswoman. She said the final cost could rise by about $20,000 because work mulching and reseeding the Capitol grounds isn't finished.

The estimated $197,459 in Capitol cleanup costs so far includes $43,520 for repairing tape damage to the stone, $30,504 for overtime and weekend custodial work, and $13,750 for hiring contractor Charles Quagliana, a historic preservation architect, the DOA said. The agency said other costs included lawn repair, repairing marker damage and scaffolding for cleaning.

Capitol cleanup costs quickly flared into a controversy in the midst of massive protests at the Capitol last spring, when Gov. Scott Walker's administration was in a Dane County courtroom fighting a lawsuit seeking to restore full public access to the building. During that case, a DOA official estimated that protesters had caused $7.5 million in damage to the historic landmark.

DOA Secretary Mike Huebsch said at the time that tape used to hang protest signs in the Capitol might have damaged the marble and stone inside, and a memo from DOA architect Dan Stephans estimated it could cost as much as $7.5 million for repairs inside and outside the building.

Walker's opponents accused the administration of inflating the damage estimate.

Tens of thousands of mostly peaceful protesters flooded the Capitol and surrounding grounds daily from Feb. 15 through early March, some occupying the Capitol around the clock.

Protesters said they took steps to protect the building and even consulted with Capitol Police on policies to make the protests as gentle as possible on the century-old statehouse. Union leaders supplied hundreds of rolls of blue painters tape to protesters after police told them the blue tape was gentlest on the stone walls and railings.

The Walker administration quickly acknowledged the $7.5 million cleanup cost was overstated, and had little more than some figures written on a sheet of notebook paper to back the estimate.

But Webster said Thursday that initial figure was for total potential damages, and was provided because the state needed to give an estimate during the court case. She added that because protesters still were camped out in the building and more damage could occur, a more detailed assessment was difficult.

"At the time that estimate was given, the Capitol was occupied and we couldn't get in to have an on-the-ground assessment of what the actual damage was -- and there was also potential that more damage could occur," Webster said.

She said that between cleanup costs and paying police officers for more than $8 million overtime for security during the protests, "it was a significant cost to taxpayers."


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