Gov. Tony Evers authorized emergency work on the 19-floor Madison building that houses the University of Wisconsin System’s headquarters Thursday after two precast concrete railing slabs fell from the third floor.
The 10-by-6 foot slabs fell from Van Hise Hall on UW-Madison’s campus Sunday, landing directly in front of the building’s entrance. No one was injured.
UW System interim President Tommy Thompson told reporters this week that the situation could have been much worse.
“Luckily, it was on a Sunday morning here at Van Hise and nobody was around,” Thompson said. “But there are several other brick pieces of facade that are very loose on Van Hise.”
He added that deteriorating building facilities are not exclusive to UW-Madison. Cofrin Library at UW-Green Bay and Albertson Hall at UW-Stevens Point face similar facade deterioration, Thompson said. He pointed to the system’s budget request, 83% of which covers pending maintenance issues at aging UW facilities across the state.
“A good share of our buildings were built between 1950 and 1970 and we have a lot of buildings that are reaching the age-old maturity that requires a lot of fix-up or (replacement),” Thompson said. “We want the Legislature to know that. I’m not being critical, but there’s been a dearth of maintenance and renovations of our college campuses.”
In March, GOP lawmakers on the State Building Commission rejected Evers’ $2.4 billion capital budget, nearly half of which was slated for the UW System. Without a consensus on which projects to fund from the commission, the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee will decide which upgrades and building projects should be included in the next two-year state budget.
In the last state budget, GOP lawmakers ultimately approved $1 billion for UW’s facilities.
Evers’ emergency authorization covers up to $500,000 in work.
Rob Cramer, interim associate vice chancellor of facilities planning and management at UW-Madison, said all 68 concrete slabs — which are decorative and not critical to the building’s structure — will be removed on the third and fourth floor. Engineers will evaluate the slabs on the 19th floor Monday.
The building is closed as of the end of the day Friday. The university plans to demolish Van Hise Hall but not before 2035.