Milwaukee Art Museum Feuds with County Over Repair Costs

The Milwaukee Art Museum. Photo: Courtesy Matt Nleml via Flickr

The Milwaukee Art Museum is in a standoff with Milwaukee County executive Chris Abele over more than $1 million in costs on repairs to the Milwaukee County War Memorial, according to a report in the Milwaukee Business Journal. The museum occupies most of the memorial.

Under the terms of an earlier agreement reached a year ago, the museum and the War Memorial would each contribute a set sum of money to the repairs. Milwaukee County agreed to spend $10 million through 2017, while the museum promised $15 million for an addition to the building and renovations to the space in which it resides. However, the cost of fixing the heating and air conditioning system is expected to be at least $1.14 million above what the county agreed to pay in the deal.

Museum director Dan Keegan told the Business Journal that the agreements are “clear” that this is the county’s responsibility. According to the article, the debate is not about whether or not the repairs will be one, but when. The agreement stipulates that the the county and the museum are each accountable for overruns on their respective areas of oversight. But the overruns means that the $10 million outlay by the county through 2017 may not cover all of the repair work it agreed to.

In an August 20 report, the memorial and the museum recommended to county officials that the county pick up the additional costs and complete the work by 2015. But Abele told Keegan in a letter dated August 28 that the museum should either take up the cost or run the risk of delays in repairs. Abele had opposed the agreement from the start, the report says. “I disagree with anybody who suggests county taxpayers are just going to pick up whatever overruns there are,” he said. Abele further said the incorrect estimate for the heating and air conditioning costs came from museum consultants.

Amid all the the finger poiting, according to Keegan, the dispute will not impact the museum’s repair schedule. The institution plans to move some exhibitions by the end of October and begin the renovations it is financing.

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