State officials have finally provided the official price tag for the month-long protest over Gov. Scott Walker’s controversial collective bargaining bill.
The Department of Administration on Friday estimated cleanup and overtime costs for the event will reach about $8 million — a total that includes only $270,000 for interior and exterior Capitol building repairs.
Originally, DOA Secretary Mike Huebsch estimated the repair costs alone would run about $7.5 million. The controversial figure was said to have been a quick estimate, based a single handwritten page of notebook paper. Heubsch later revised that number down to $350,000.
On Friday, the secretary spelled out the estimate and said the costs could have been higher, given the size of crowds at the historic building for four straight weeks.
“It is important to note that there was no malicious damage,” Huebsch said. “But that said, this is still a lot of money.”
The estimate covers the period from Feb. 14 to March 13, a time that saw the biggest and most sustained protests in state history. Thousands of people crowded inside the building everyday, hanging posters on the walls and camping out in the corridors. Outside, tens of thousands more marched around the building, turning much of the grounds into a mud pit.
DOA-hired expert Charles Quagliana said the building experienced three to five years’ worth of wear and tear in the short period of the protest. He estimated it would take between 80 and 100 hours to remove stains from the walls. He also said it could take as many as 4,000 hours to clean tape residue from the marble.
But work that has already been done in the basement of the building by Ron Blair, the state’s assistant facilities director, offers signs of hope that tape residue is not as serious of a problem as originally feared. Blair has been working to remove old tape, put on the walls long before the protests and left there for years, by washing it with an acetone-based solvent and Dawn dish soap.
As of Friday afternoon, not a trace of tape or residue could be found on the walls where Blair had been working.
DOA estimates that the state will end up paying $7.8 million in overtime and expenses for law enforcement during the protests. That total includes $3.9 million for local law enforcement, $3 million for other state agencies and $422,000 for additional supplies and services.
The city of Madison is seeking reimbursement for $682,842 in costs related to the protests, including more than half a million dollars in police overtime. It’s unclear whether the $7.8 million includes Madison’s costs.
The Capitol remains on a form of lockdown, with just two doors open to the pubic. Those who enter the statehouse pass through metal detectors.
Huebsch said the tighter security measures would likely continue, at least until the collective bargaining bill debate is resolved. On Friday, however, Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, said it was time the Capitol returned to normal.
“We did not need to waste this money, nor do we need to continue to waste this money,” he said. “The majority of the people here now are fourth-grade schoolchildren on tours.”
State Journal reporters Mary Spicuzza and Sandy Cullen contributed to this report.