Fire Closes Milwaukee County Courthouse

      MILWAUKEE (CN) – The Milwaukee County courthouse is closed indefinitely after an electrical fire, and 1,000 workers have been told to stay home but will receive full pay, the county says.
     County Executive Chris Abele said the courthouse will be closed for at least the rest of the week, though the adjoining Safety Building will open today (Wednesday).
     Criminal cases scheduled for hearings today will be held in the Safety Building.
     Abele said air quality is being tested and power has been restored to both buildings, which will make the cleanup go faster. The Institute for Air Quality must approve the safety of the building before workers return.
     Early reports estimated damages at $500,000. Clean-up crews are inspecting 1 million square feet of courthouse, Abele said. Odor and smoke are the biggest problems, with cleaning crews scrubbing floors, removing ceiling tile and replacing carpet.
     When asked if he was confident the courthouse would reopen next week, Abele said: “My approach to planning anything is budget for the apocalypse and shoot for paradise. … I don’t take risks on [citizens’] behalf.”
     Abele did not want to address questions regarding an inspection report issued in February, in which the county noted that the courthouse’s electrical equipment is 47 years old and “is approaching or beyond its life expectancy.”
     The report noted the absence of a sprinkler system for fire protection, which “does not meet current codes and standards.”
     Abele said he was not familiar with those findings in the report.

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