If a new bill in Madison becomes law, the former Waukesha County Health and Human Services building will likely be demolished.
The bill from State Senator Chris Kapenga and State Representative Adam Neylon would only apply to the City of Waukesha, and would restrict the city from placing a historic property designation on any Waukesha County owned building.
The former HHS building was named a historical landmark in 2001 by the City of Waukesha Landmark Commission. The county ended its use of the building in 2013 when a new building was built.
The office of Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow says a recent assessment of the building has determined it is in need of a new roof, which would cost over one-million dollars. The historical designation would require the county to cover this cost. Not doing any work on the roof would jeopardize the contents inside it to become contaminated with asbestos, making them unrecoverable.
Farrow's office adds the county has tried twice to find a new buyer for the building that would be willing to preserve it, but no viable offers were received. The city's landmark commission has also denied the county's request to rescind the landmark designation, preventing its demolition.
"Just seven unelected members of the City of Waukesha's Landmark Commission are holding hundreds of thousands of county taxpayers hostage," says Farrow. "Spending a million dollars or more to maintain a vacant building is not only a waste of tax dollars, it could force the county to forgo important infrastructure projects or delay maintenance on buildings or roads that thousands of residents use every day."
At their most recent meeting back on June 5, 2019, the landmark committee did approve sending a letter to Farrow to show their support in repurposing the building for a future sale or a long-term lease.