BELDING — What was once considered the most historic portion of the city of Belding is labeled that no more.
During Tuesday evening’s meeting, the Belding City Council voted 4-1 to remove the historic label from the Electrolux property that previously occupied the space of the original Belding Silk Mill buildings and clock tower.
It was required in the consent judgment between Electrolux and the city in order for the city to receive funds totaling $125,000 to go toward a future park on the site.
“The consent judgment stipulates that this property has to be removed from the historic district boundary in order for the city to take custody of the funds that were part of the consent judgement,” City Manager Meg Mullendore said. “Ten days after publication we can then request those funds we released from Electrolux.”
The vote now leaves buildings such as the Belding Library, Belding Belrockton Museum and the Belding Bros. Building as some of the few buildings still being designated as historic in Belding.
Mayor Ron Gunderson cast the lone opposing vote. He has long opposed any action taken on the Electrolux site.
“This has been 2 1/2 years of an ongoing litigation now and this is what it has come down to,” Gunderson said. “I personally feel it is still a historical area, regardless of if the buildings are there or not. That’s where it started.”
After the measure was voted through by council, Councilman Mike Scheid voiced his frustration with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and its lack of cooperation with the city.
“There was no cleanup done over there at all,” Scheid said. “They tore down the buildings, covered it up — they are trying to run away.”
Scheid said he has made several attempts to contact officials from the MDEQ, seeking information about contaminants discovered during the demolition of the Gibson buildings, but after brief conversations at first, he has been denied any information regarding the site.
“I have talked to several people at the MDEQ and get no response from them,” he said. “There is no information being passed to us. Once the buildings were tore down any information that was coming has completely stopped. (Electrolux) is a big corporation and the (MDEQ) is afraid of them. If it were a piece of property that someone owned here in town that was polluted, they would take everything that we own to get it cleaned up. They are cowards down there in Lansing. It’s just ridiculous. There was supposed to be reclamation done over there and there was nothing done, other than what they wanted to do.”
Gunderson echoed Scheid’s comments.
“It’s been a frustrating 2 1/2 years,” Gunderson said. “We get some communication with the (MDEQ), but we pretty much fall off of the radar. I’m not saying that we wont ever end up with that property over there, but right now it’s up to the (MDEQ). If communication breaks down, we don’t have the funds to go after Electrolux. We need to hold the (MDEQ) responsible for their end of it.”
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, Sheridan resident Amy Pethers spoke in support of fired Belding police officer Jason Cooper.
“We’re still here in support of Jason,” she said. “We wanted to present you with some of the petitions we have. We have 500 so far.”
Scheid then spoke in support of supporters’ efforts in backing up Cooper.
“The people that are collecting the petitions for Jason, I applaud you on it. It shows good support for him,” he said. “There’s too many things going on that are not right in town. We just have to keep working at it, keep our heads up and keep going. There’s things that need to be changed.”
Scheid pointed to an guest view recently published in The Daily News by James Freed, the manager of the city of Stanton and the village of Lakeview.
“He wrote about getting government out of the way to get businesses into town,” Scheid said. “That’s something we’ve had a problem with here in Belding for a very long time, government getting in the way, preventing businesses from coming into town.
Scheid said he doesn’t believe Belding currently has a plan to bring business into town.
“We need to have some sort of a plan to make people want to come to Belding, and we don’t have it,” he said. “There are things going on, but things need to be worked on a lot more.”