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Damages From Wis. Capitol Protests Total About $270K

MADISON, Wis. --

Damages from the protests that dominated the state Capitol for about a month earlier this year resulted in about $270,000 in damages, according to state officials.

Wisconsin Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch announced the estimated totals at a press conference on Friday.

"It could have been much worse, but that being said, there's a great deal of money that taxpayers are going to have to pay to repair the interior and exterior of the Capitol," he said.

The current damage estimates that Huebsch presented Friday are much lower than the $7.5 million estimates initially projected shortly after the protests ended in March. The department later revised those figures, saying it would cost as little as $350,000.

The secretary said the drastic change in estimates came down to officials doing the best they could do at the time to quantify the costs.

"I don't necessarily think it was a mistake. I think that what we saw as we were in the final day of a court hearing and the request was made to us of what was going to be the estimated costs, the DOA staff responded in the best way that they could," he said.

The protests, which were sparked by Gov. Scott Walker's attempts to change public workers' collective bargaining rights, set off weeks of protests and rallies at the Capitol.

DOA officials said a Capitol damage report found that protesters only caused "3-5 years of wear" on the building in the course of two weeks. The damages include chips in the marble and damage from hand oils in stairwell railings. The architect's assessment said that there's plenty of work to be done to the building, including using a custom poultice to take grime and oils off parts of the stonework in the building.

About $112,000 should be spent repairing damage to stonework, officials said. Overall repair to the inside of the building is estimated at $161,000. Exterior repair to the lawn and landscaping will total about $108,500.

Then, there are the overall law enforcement costs, which total more than $7.8 million. DOA officials said the police costs are based on claims from more than 200 police departments and other state agencies. Thirty-two police agencies haven't yet submitted claims, they said.

"As we get near the end of the fiscal year, and certainly there accounts that provide for repairs along the way, there was nothing that would have provided for this level of expense, and $8 million cost as far as policing and capitol repairs," Huebsch said.

Huebsch said that they will work with the Legislature to find a funding source to reimburse police departments and pay for the repairs.

Then, there's the issue of ongoing security in the building. Huebsch said they are spending more than usual, but believe it is "prudent' at this time. He said they will be looking at what type of security to provide in the building, but they didn't have a date when that decision would be made.

A court trial on Capitol access is scheduled for later this month.

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