Restoration of old building

How Much Deferred Maintenance Is Too Much?

  September 26, 2018

By Dan Hounsell

Institutional, commercial and municipal facilities have struggled mightily with deferred maintenance for decades. It’s a frustrating task that rarely seems to get easier or yield tangible, long-term results.

What happens if an organization throws in the towel on deferred maintenance? One major U.S. city now might be at that point.

According to a new report, Milwaukee County officials are not making progress on reducing the ever-growing to-do list of costly building and road repair or replacement projects they face at public parks, recreational sites and other cultural assets, according to The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

The county now faces "a seemingly insurmountable backlog" of tens of millions of dollars worth of deferred maintenance and lacks the resources to make headway in paring it down, the Wisconsin Policy Forum warns in the report. The threat of a growing backlog is that some assets would continue to deteriorate to the extent that use of the properties down the road could be limited, says Rob Henken, the forum’s president.

To meet the requests from cultural institutions and parks for major repair and construction projects in 2019 alone, the county would need to more than double capital spending on cultural institutions from $6.2 million to $13.9 million and increase spending nearly tenfold on parks from $2.4 million to $23 million, according to the report.

"Meeting all parks, recreation and cultural capital requests for the next four years would require a 135 percent increase in spending, from $82.6 million to $194.1 million, over budgeted spending of the past four years," according to the report.

This Quick Read was submitted by Dan Hounsell — — editor-in-chief of Facility Maintenance Decisions, and chief editor of


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