Damage to city-owned property — including garbage trucks, street lights and traffic signals, among others — from rioting over the last week in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake has climbed to nearly $2 million, city officials said Monday night.
Kenosha Public Works Director Shelly Billingsley, who reported the update to the Public Works Committee, said her staff continues to compile numbers following the destruction.
“Right now, we’re estimating between lost equipment, lost street lights, lost traffic signals and miscellaneous sign damage — we’re estimating a cost of approximately $1.9 million,” she said.
Billingsley said the estimate is based on what it would cost to replace the equipment and not the current value of the vehicles and others that incurred damage, of which staff continues to research.
“I know the mayor has requested state help in regards to these items, but we are tracking material and personnel time,” she said.
On Sunday, Mayor John Antaramian announced the city would request $30 million in aid from the state to rebuild in the aftermath of the Aug. 23 shooting that has led to weeklong unrest, destruction and violence that also left two protesters dead.
Billingsley said she did not have an update for the costs of personnel involved.
The vehicles, which included older garbage trucks, were deployed in downtown at the time of the protests that were peaceful during the day. Under cover of night, rioters later caused destruction.
Billingsley said they were insured and that city finance staff continues to work with the insurance company to log damage information.
Ald. Bill Siel was encouraged at the prospect of being able to recover costs through insurance.
“I guess it’s encouraging not to look at it as a total loss. Something that will have some replacement ability,” he said. “I know that some of our old garbage trucks are no more, they were burned. I also knew that their value had dropped quite a bit. And that it was the old ones and not the new ones.”
Siel said he realizes that some might not view the situation similarly.
“But as much as it is a loss, the burning hulks did provide some additional security,” he said. “So, I guess they went down with a fight.”
Billingsley confirmed that two dump trucks — already sidelined due to damaged cranes and had functioned as snow-plow vehicles in the winter — were also destroyed.
She said they came with attachments for plowing, but the attachments were not on the vehicles at the time of the rioting.
“These are two that were not the best condition tandems, so we are down two at this time,” she said. “But we’re hoping that we’re going to get two of the purchased ones prior to snowfall.”
Billingsley said she hoped that the setback would not affect snow plow operations come winter. She told committee Chairperson Mitchell Pedersen the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors could affect the timeline in obtaining the new trucks.
Ald. Dominic Ruffalo wondered whether the city still had older vehicles remaining that could be deployed.
“Do we have enough vehicles at the end their life to put out there or do we have to use newer models to block the roads?” he asked.
Billingsley said that it would depend on the situation.
“Sometimes, it requires all hands on deck, every piece of equipment, whether new or old,” she said. “In the instance of this instance, we were able to pick. It depends on its purpose and what it’s going to be used for that we have the ability to take out some of the newer equipment.”
Pedersen, at the end of the meeting, thanked city employees who’ve been working overtime under stressful conditions.
“I just want to thank you for everything you’ve done to keep this city safe,” he said. “No one can plan for what has happened over the last week. I hope and pray that the worst is behind us and we can continue to rebuild and grow and learn from the situation. I sincerely want to express my gratitude to all of our city employees in these trying times.”