Co. Exec 'hoping' to open Courthouse next week; services being restored

CREATED Jul. 10, 2013 - UPDATED: Jul. 10, 2013

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MILWAUKEE - The Milwaukee County Executive says that he hopes the Courthouse building opens in a few days, after a day where the nearby Safety Building lost power with people trapped in elevators.

In the meantime, the County is restoring many of its services.

"We're hoping to open parts of the courthouse by next week," said Co. Exec Chris Abele during a news conference on TODAY'S TMJ4's "Live at 3."

He said that the use of newer, more powerful temporary generators would hopefully give enough power to open again next week.

"There are going to be two much larger generators...the first is large enough to power everything.  The second is going to be the backup to (the first) one," said Abele.  "That should be able to get us back up to full power."

Services to be restored include:

- Courts.  Criminal cases, civil and criminal filings, restraining orders/injunctions, criminal court cases are all being restored.

People can head to room 117 of the Safety Building for information on courtroom reassignment and other case info.

People can also find electronic filing information through wicourts.gov.

Interim facilities director Gary Waszak said that there was the possibility for more power interruptions.

- County Clerk.  People can pick up marriage licenses starting Thursday at 9:00 a.m. at the City Campus building.

- Register of Deeds.  The department is recording most real estate document submissions.  They can't sell vital record copies, but people in Milwaukee and West Allis can receive birth and death recordsthrough their cities' health departments.

The State Vital Records office can also help you obtain birth, death and marriage records.

- Department of Family Care.  The county said it has moved its operations off site, but did not disclose where they are located.  They say workers are still serving 8,000 clients.

- Child Support Services.  That department will start working from the Marcia Coggs Center on 12th and Vliet on Thursday from 9:00 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. with limited services.

The County Executive did not have a timeline as to when a permanent power solution would come.

Abele also said that he would not return the in-county service of 911 calls to the Courthouse until enough power sources were tested and reliable.

Currently, Waukesha County Dispatch is serving Milwaukee County's 911 needs.

Power to the Milwaukee County Safety Building downtown was knocked out for about a half hour Wednesday morning.

During that time, two people were stuck in the elevator.

That happened as power issues continued at the Milwaukee County Courthouse for a fourth straight day.

One of the employees at the Safety Building Wednesday said that he was on his way to work when the elevator stopped.

“I just thought I'd take the elevator as I do every morning,” said James Karppi. “But, this wasn't the morning to take the elevator.”

Karppi is an accountant for the sheriff's department, and was on his way up to work when the power went out.

“I pressed floor four and all of a sudden everything went dark,” he said.

It was dark because of a power glitch from generators outside the courthouse. A very observant security guard called for help when Karppi became trapped, and it took 20 minutes to free him.

“Thank goodness for the security guard, because there are no power, no telephones in that elevator,” he explained.

Generators have already been supplying power to the safety building and the courthouse since a basement fire caused extensive damage last weekend.

“The entire electrical infrastructure has been destroyed and needs to be rebuilt,” said County Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic. “So we're taking it day by day.”

County employees like Karppi hope the repairs happen quickly so they can trust the elevators again, and work in a building with air conditioning.

“Thank God I put deodorant on this morning,” said Karppi. “It would be pretty bad for my coworkers.”

It was quite an ordeal Karppi. And even though he got out just fine, he still reported to work.

Dimitrijevic said they hope to have some of the courthouse open by Monday, but it depends on how quickly progress is made in repair the electrical system.