BELDING — Last November, just two weeks before resigning from Belding City Council, Jon Bunce gave an emotional statement at the end of a meeting declaring, “I will fight on to have the clock tower saved.”
Five months later, and the Belding clock tower is quickly becoming one of the last remaining structures to remain on the 4-acre site at the corner of Main and Bridge streets.
The tower will inevitably come down, there is no stopping that, but Bunce says now that he is no longer on the city council, he will dedicate time and effort to forming an official committee with the interest of collecting money and rebuilding the clock tower at a future date.
“It’s a symbol of the city,” Bunce said of the tower. “Will we survive without the tower? Of course we will, but it’s a symbol. It’s a historical landmark to this city.”
Bunce approached members of city council on April 2 to inform them of his desire to form a committee. While Bunce does not need city approval to form an official committee, he said he would prefer to have the city’s blessing in order to begin a process that promotes transparency.
“I just think it’s time for all of the fighting to stop,” he said. “We need to get this done. I think we need to hurry because one third of that silk mill building is already gone.”
The process to rebuild the tower to original specifications won’t happen overnight. Bunce has received estimates that in order to rebuild the tower to the same height it currently stands at, between $700,000 and $800,000 will be required.
“I’m not saying that this is going to be a fast or easy process,” he said. “It’s going to take a few years to get this done. But you have to take that first step.”
That first step was taken when the Frederick Meijer Foundation donated $50,000 to be put toward the reconstruction of the clock tower.
“That’s a start,” Bunce added. “But we can’t just sit back and wait.”
Bunce is looking to form a committee of five to seven people to form ideas and suggestions on how to raise money and choose a suitable location within the city for the future rebuilt tower.
“The more thoughts and ideas brought up, the better solution we’ll find for this situation,” he said.
Bunce will approach council members again next Tuesday, hoping for their blessing. After that meeting, he will begin the process of gathering committee members with a goal to hold a first meeting as soon as possible.
In the meantime, Bunce said he is waiting for Electrolux to follow the terms of the consent judgement signed between them and the city of Belding, in which portions of the clock tower will be saved.
The judgment reads: “Electrolux shall use reasonable efforts to dismantle, preserve, donate and deliver to the city … the slate tile rooftop over the clock tower, the clock, the wood housing surrounding the clock and the materials immediately abutting such wooden housing … and the blocks/place-cards containing the ‘Belding Bros.’ inscription and the plaque showing the year built.”
The judgment goes on to read: “The city acknowledges, however, that the tower clock is in poor condition, and therefore, it may not be practical for the tower clock and other materials to be dismantled in such a manner that they can be preserved or reused … the parties acknowledge that an environmentally suitable location for such reassembly or construction may not exist on the easement property.”
Bunce said he will attempt numerous ways to raise money for the new tower, all of which will be put into a specific fund dedicated toward rebuilding the tower, and nothing else.
Councilman Tom Jones said he believe’s Bunce’s efforts are just and supports the cause.
“I think it’s a good idea,” he said. “I’d be happy to be a council liaison to the committee.”
Jones said that though he was never necessarily committed to saving the clock tower, he supports the idea of rebuilding it at a future date.
“I was never necessarily in favor of saving the clock tower,” he said. “If there was a group that wanted to do that, they should have started 20 or 30 years ago.”
Jones added that he would like to see the future tower incorporated with the future rail-trail that will be completed throughout the city by summer of 2014.
“I think it could be a drawing card for the city,” he said.
While city approval is not needed for the formation of the committee, Jones said he appreciated Bunce’s request for permission.
“You keep the city as transparent as possible and make sure everybody knows what’s going on, that’s my reason for seeing why he wants city council to put their blessing on it,” he said.
Bunce said he is actively seeking members for his committee. For those who are interested, contact Belding City Clerk Kareen Thomas at (616) 794-1900.