Friday, March 04, 2011


Anyone else skeptical about this story from Wisconsin?

State officials said Thursday that damage to the marble inside and out the State Capitol would cost an estimated $7.5 million.

Cari Anne Renlund, chief legal counsel for the state Department of Administration, said in Dane County court that estimates of damage to marble includes $6 million to repair damaged marble inside the Capitol, $1 million for damage outside and $500,000 for costs to supervise the damage.

Much of the damage apparently has come from tape used to put up signs and placards at the Capitol.

It was not immediately clear how the estimates were made....

OK, let's start with that $500,000. According to this story from a local Fox affiliate,

a representative from the Attorney General's office said a contractor estimated it would cost $500,000 to remove all of the posters and garbage.

As a point of comparison, I'll note that when New York City had a couple of recent parades for sports teams, extending many city blocks, the cleanup costs were much less:

Apparently the global recess that left California bankrupt did not affect New York City judging by the money and excess wasted on the Ticker Tape parade thrown on Friday November 6, 2009 to celebrate the 27th World Series win for the New York Yankees. says that "the city estimates that the parade will cost roughly the same amount as 2008's parade for the New York Giants Super Bowl win, which cost around $331,000 for floats, added police protection, and clean-up."

They don't use ticker tape anymore (it doesn't really exist), but there's still a hell of a lot of paper to clean up:

About 20 office buildings on Broadway will get stacks of shredded recyclable paper to toss down. Ticker tape hasn't been used since stock tickers became obsolete in the 1960s.

Some 36 tons of paper were used for the Giants' parade and a similar bulk is expected this time, said Joe Timpone, senior vice president for operations at Downtown Alliance, which is set to distribute the confetti.

Thirty-six tons of paper. Think that's a wee bit more than protesters might leave behind in Madison? And yet the clean-up and other costs -- in unionized, high-cost-of-living New York -- is much less.

(Oh, and did I mention that the crowd estimates for the Yankees parade ranged as high as 3 million people? I think that's a tad larger than the estimates in Madison.)

In New Orleans, a 2009 article estimates the cost of Mardi Gras cleanup -- Mardi Gras! -- as $1.5 million ... and that covers something like 18 days of parades (and all sorts of other revelry). That's less than $100,000 a day. The Wisconsin protesters are bigger slobs than six days' worth of Mardi Gras revelers in New Orleans?

And $7 million to restore marble? I found this company in Michigan offering to do marble restoration for commercial customers at a rate of $1.20 - $1.80 per square foot. For $7 million, even at his top rate of $1.80, this guy would apparently restore nearly 4 million square feet of marble. How big is this Capitol Building, anyway? (By point of comparison, there are 4 million square feet of event/exhibit/meeting space for conventions in the entire D.C. metro area, which covers nine major D.C. convention spaces, plus several in the surrounding suburbs.)

Now, it did cost $5.3 million to clean and restore the entire exterior of the Wisconsin Capitol in 2000 and 2001 -- but that was apparently to remove decades of dirt and repair years of damage. The process took 16 months and involved a very high-level power-wash and a lot of repair work:

The exterior of the Capitol was restored using a sponge jetting process. Sponge jetting is 280,000 pounds of sponge pellets, blasted against the granite to literally blot the dirt from the surface, and are used to clean every square inch of the exterior. The granite is repaired and the tuckpointing and caulking of joints is also done.

A couple of weeks' worth of protests are going to require something more expensive than that? Really? Because of a little masking tape?

Politically, it's very, very useful to the Walker administration to have this estimate out there. I'm no expert, but I'm really skeptical. I think this is the new Obama trip to Mumbai.


UPDATE: Well, imagine my surprise:

State officials charged with overseeing the state Capitol are now backing away from their estimate that demonstrators did more than $7 million in damage to the building.

"I think that's more of a worst-case scenario," said Jeff Plale, the former Democratic state senator who is now the state facilities administrator. "There are other estimates." ...

In court, the state cited concerns about the statehouse expressed by Michele Curran, an architectural historian with the National Park Service who coordinates national historic landmarks in Wisconsin....

But Curran said she didn't know how the state had arrived at its damage figures. She said only a professional cleaning service experienced in such work and familiar with the situation in the Capitol could accurately estimate cleanup costs. But Plale said Friday he wasn't aware of the state receiving any such estimate yet....

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