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Bayshore Mall parking structure collapse prompts new legislation

By: Steve Schuster, [email protected]//February 9, 2024//

Bayshore parking garage partial collapse. Photo courtesy North Shore Fire Rescue.

Bayshore Mall parking structure collapse prompts new legislation

By: Steve Schuster, [email protected]//February 9, 2024//

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On Tuesday, Rep. Madison, Rep. Maxey, Rep. Donovan, and Sen. Larson introduced bipartisan legislation to require parking garages to have their structural integrity inspected every five years.

“When the parking garage collapsed at Bayshore Mall last year, my first thought was how thankful I was that no one was hurt, especially after the 2010 Milwaukee parking structure incident which killed a 15-year old and injured two others. I learned that under current state law parking garages are not required to undergo periodic inspections after construction even though parking structures are exposed to the elements and heavy vehicle usage,” said Rep. Madison on Tuesday.

“I engaged local and state stakeholders and subject matter experts to draft LRB 3158 which requires every parking structure in Wisconsin to be inspected at least once every five years. This would bring parking structures closer to the inspection requirements of bridges, which are currently required to be inspected every 2-4 years,” Madison noted.

“This is a common-sense bipartisan bill that closes an important gap in the law and ensures safety in our communities. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass this bill into law in the final weeks of the session,” Madison added.

According to a copy of a bill obtained by the Wisconsin Law Journal, the measure requires the owner of a parking structure to engage a professional engineer to inspect the structural integrity of the parking structure at least once within five years after the bill takes effect.

The owner of the parking garage must also submit a report containing the results of the inspection to the Department of Safety and Professional Services or, if the city, village, town, or county within which the parking structure is located is authorized to perform commercial building plan examinations, to that city, village, town, or county.

Additionally, according to the language of the proposed measure, during the period beginning six months after the date by which the bill
requires an inspection and ending 12 months after that date, an owner of a parking structure who violates the bill’s requirement is subject to a forfeiture of $200 for each month that no inspection is conducted.

According to Justin Bilenski in Sen. Larson’s office, he was not aware of any earlier attempts to introduce similar legislation.

As previously reported by our sister publication, back in March 2023, a portion of the third-floor parking garage collapsed near the Trader Joe’s store at Bayshore Town Center in Glendale, leaving both shoppers and store employees scrambling for answers.

No injuries were reported as a result of the collapse, North Shore Fire Rescue Chief Robert Whitaker said at a news conference held shortly after the incident.

Glendale Police, North Shore Fire Rescue and Milwaukee Fire were the first on the scene, according to Assistant Chief North Shore Fire Rescue Dan Tiyk.

Milwaukee Fire responded outside of its normal jurisdiction as it is a part of the regional Heavy Urban Rescue Team (HURT) team. The “HURT team” is comprised of various first responders from across the Milwaukee-metro area that respond in a time of emergency.

The two vehicles that were trapped under the snow and concrete chunks were removed, Tiyk said.

According to Tiyk, the Glendale Police Department was in communication with the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office, who then contacted OSHA. However, since no criminal activity was suspected and there were no injuries, the matter will now be handled by Bayshore Mall Town Center.

Bayshore Town Center took over the investigation, Sgt. Galbraith with Glendale Police confirmed last March.

The parking lot structure was built in 2005-2006, according to Bayshore Town Center officials, who worked with structural engineers and designers to determine the cause of the collapse.  Officials at the initial news conference seemed to think snow either caused or contributed to the collapse.

Wisconsin clearly has received significant snow falls over the past 18 years since the parking structure had been built. So why now after nearly two-decades did part of the garage collapse?  According to the National Weather Service, snow likely wasn’t the only factor.

“As far as the snow is concerned there wasn’t much. We had quite a warm stretch,” proceeding the collapse, said Cameron Miller, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

“We’ve had this discussion in our office when we heard about (the incident at Bayshore) on the news. (Milwaukee’s North Shore) received 3.3 inches of sleet Wednesday, just before the incident. Sleet weighs significantly more than snow. Snow is mostly comprised of air, but sleet is a lot more compact because it’s basically a sheet of ice. With sleet, you basically have more weight than you’ve had with snow. … It was likely the combination with the weight of snow and sleet that probably contributed to the collapse,” Miller said.

Wisconsin is no stranger to slabs of falling concrete in parking garages. In 2010, 15-year-old Jared Kellner was killed and two others were injured when a panel fell off a parking garage as Kellner was headed to Summerfest. A Milwaukee County jury ruled four years later that the insurance company for the firm that installed the panel owed $39 million in connection with the incident.

Parking structures are considered public buildings within state statutes 101.01 (12) and are governed by the Commercial Building Code. Current statute requires building inspections when a building is constructed or altered. There is no requirement for public buildings to be inspected after construction unless it is altered or if there has been a complaint about the building’s safety, according to Wisconsin State Rep. Darrin Madison.

“While there are additional challenges to inspecting most public buildings after construction is completed, parking structures are more like bridges and dams in the sense that the structural integrity is usually visible and therefore easier to inspect,” he said in a statement.

“Under current law bridges (s. 84.17) are required to be inspected by the DOT or local government every 2-4 years depending on circumstances and dams (s. 31.19) have required inspection intervals and responsibility that vary by dam classification. Following this precedent, one solution we are looking into would be to classify parking structures in a new manner that requires inspection periodically after construction.,” Madison said last March.

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