(Updated 3/6/11) MADISON--Responding to claims by the Walker Department of Administration that the cost to clean up the tape from citizens' signs in the Capitol would be $7.5 million, the Center for Media and Democracy today announced that it was willing to clean up the tape on the capitol's walls for a much lower bid, $75,000, although the actual cost for acetone and cotton balls and a little bit of elbow grease could be much closer to $7,500 or less.
The Center demanded that any such clean-up costs be put up for an open-bid process and that all bids be open to public inspection. CMD suggests bidding only if the state refuses the reasonable offers of the local branch of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades to use volunteers to remove signs and clean any tape residue -- which is the common sense option CMD recommends for a state claiming "we're broke" (a claim debunked here). Moreover, the state already has experienced professionals on staff who have been cleaning tape off capitol walls for many years and the experience of these public employees should be relied on first.
Like many, CMD was stunned to hear that Walker's lawyers told a court that it would cost over seven million dollars to clean up the tape on the stone walls and railings. After criticism, the state's lawyers acknowledged that this absurd figure was on "the high end" and then suggested that the cost could be "as low as $347,500," if "restoration specialists" were not needed. The state asserted that its figures were "an educated guess." Based on whose education is unknown.
But, as Walker proclaimed, "Wisconsin is open for business." Local business people were called into the fray over the estimates. Middleton art conservator Meghan Thumm Mackey told the Wisconsin State Journal that professional restoration can cost $100 an hour. The WSJ noted that the state claimed it might "need to rely heavily on such experts, which to clean 240,000 square feet inside would cost $6 million" plus a million for the outside, in addition to a $500,000 initial assessment fee. Mackey noted that painter's tape that is left on too long can require the use of acetone (the main ingredient in nail polish remover) and cotton swabs. CMD offers to perform an initial assessment at a fraction of the half million dollar fee suggested in the article. Mackey did note that the state's initial estimate of $7.5 million seemed "high." (This paragraph was updated on 3/6/11, as discussed below.)
Luckily, the janitorial staff who actually has extensive experience cleaning the marble walls and floors and metal railings at the Capitol have weighed in. According to Sean Heiser, the Association of Federal, State, County, and Municipal Employees field supervisor who oversees an eight-person team that keeps the Capitol clean, the clean-up can be accomplished with readily available solvents and the damage claimed is "just not there."
Although CMD has offered to submit a reasonable bid for tape removal, the Center strongly urges the state to accept the work of state employees, supplemented if necessary with the offers of trained volunteers (painters who deal with painter's tape on a daily basis).
(Correction: It is CMD's policy to make any corrections requested the same day any such request is received. On 3/6/11pm, CMD received a request from Meghan Thumm Mackey about the piece from 3/5/11pm. In response to her request CMD wishes to make extra clear that Ms. Mackey was not involved in the initial estimate of the clean-up costs by the state. Ms. Mackey was simply asked by the WSJ what the cost per hour of such expertise was, after-the-fact. We regret the error based on the print version of that story that the extrapolation of that rate with the size of the building and assessment was attributed to her based on the proximity in the WSJ article between her estimate and the story's discussion of the extrapolation of the cost of restoration and assessment for such expertise. To be absolutely clear, Ms. Mackey was not consulted by the state in its estimate. An online edition WSJ's analysis is available here.)