Local fire departments recipients of United Solar Ovonic donations

Posted by Cory Smith • Last Updated 10:53 pm on Friday, October 12 2012

Greenville Director of Public Safety Mike Pousak holds one of seven self-contained breathing apparatuses donated to the department from the now-defunct United Solar Ovonic in Greenville. — Daily News/Cory Smith

GREENVILLE — A once promising industrial gem for Montcalm County now sits nearly empty as almost all employees at the United Solar Ovonic facility in Greenville have been permanently laid off and nearly all of the assets have been liquidated and auctioned off.

Energy Conversion Devices Inc., the parent company of United Solar Ovonic, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February and has slowly been winding down operations at the Greenville facilities as the last remaining assets that were auctioned off are picked up by their buyers.

The two plant buildings of the now dissolved company remain in Greenville under operation of just three employees who now work for the auctioneers and trustees handling the sales of the buildings’ assets.

Former plant manager Tim Kelley, who was permanently laid off in August, said the final focus at the Greenville facilities is to remove the remaining assets to allow for the sale of the buildings and land to prospective buyers.

“The company ceases to exists,” Kelley said. “United Solar wants the building empty as soon as possible so they can sell the land and the buildings.”

According to Kelley, the buyers who purchased assets but have not collected their items are currently paying a monthly rent until they pick them up.

“Once all the remaining auctioned items are sold, one single employee will be paid part-time by the trustee to remain as security, to watch over the buildings until they are sold,” Kelley said.

Despite a bad situation in which hundreds of employees lost their jobs and a promising company closed its doors after just four short years of operation, there is a small silver lining.

Some of the equipment located on site that could not be auctioned off was donated to three area fire departments.

Belding Deputy Fire Chief Daryl Childs browses through a shelf full of donated items from United Solar Ovonic in Greenville. — Daily News/Cory Smith

The Belding Fire Department, Greenville Department of Public Safety and Stanton Community Fire Department each received thousands of dollars worth of equipment.

The Greenville Department of Public Safety received seven self-contained breathing apparatuses, as did the Stanton Community Fire Department.

Greenville Public Safety Director Mike Pousak said the equipment is incredibly valuable, as there was no way of budgeting in the near future for the items received.

“These are really nice, but they are for industrial use,” Pousak said. “It’s going to cost some funds to make them acceptable for fire service, but they are still usable and very valuable to the department.”

According to Pousak,the unit itself, including the the mask and the tank, costs anywhere from  $3,000 to $5,000 each.

“We now have seven of them and it will cost maybe $1,500 per unit to adjust them to make them usable,” he said. “United Solar told us these items, which were part of their hazardous response team, were not up for auction. They asked us if we’d be interested and we were more than happy to receive some of their equipment, most of it which has never been used.”

Pousak said the devices could be used commonly at any time the department has to enter a fire situation.

Other items such as portable stretchers, crash carts, gloves and haz-mat suits were distributed to each of the three departments.

Pousak estimated nearly $10,000 worth of equipment was donated to his department.

Belding Deputy Fire Chief Daryl Childs holds one of the respirators the fire department received from United Solar Ovonic in Greenville. — Daily News/Cory Smith

Belding Deputy Fire Chief Daryl Childs said Belding received approximately the same amount in value in items.

“We received many respirators, which can be used in a hazardous material situation,” Childs said. “We received spare cartridges for them as well as a fair amount of medical equipment, as we are dispatched on many medical calls.”

Childs said the most important gift to the department received was a series of haz-mat suits that could be used almost immediately.

“The big thing for our department were the haz-mat suits we received,” he said. “Some of them I believe have already been used and we have several haz-mat technicians within the department trained to use them.”

Both Pousak and Childs said they were sad to see United Solar Ovonic fail to succeed, but are thankful the company kept local departments in mind when donating their items.

“They wanted to give back to the community,” Pousak said. “This was just one more of their ways of doing that, right to the end.”

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