Nonprofits invited to throw in proposal for former court building

The City of Rockford will take proposals for a public use for the former 63rd District Court building, which is located across the parking lot from City Hall in downtown Rockford.

“The county would like to have some sort of public use,” said City Manager Michael Young. “If it’s used for commercial, they want to split the rent.”

The discussion at Rockford City Council’s regular board meeting on Monday, Oct. 11 was a step toward a new use for the court building after a long legal battle to bring full court services back to Rockford. According to Young, the Rockford Area Historical Society Building Committee is interested in the location as home to the society, currently located in the former Power building at the dam.

“The full board is very interested in that becoming their new museum,” Young said. He noted that at one time the museum was looking at a substantial expansion at their current location, including adding water and restrooms, which are not now available in the structure. Currently volunteers walk over to use the public restroom at the Welcome Center.

“Now would be a good time to entertain proposals for public or nonprofit use or if there is a need the City of Rockford has,” Young said to the council members. He said the building would double the amount of space the Historical Society has, is handicapped accessible, and has better security than the current facilities.

Council member and Mayor Pro-Tem Steve Jazwiec asked if the building was also large enough to house the Rockford Area Arts Commission (RAAC) along with the Historical Society.

“Both organizations don’t believe it is large enough,” Young said. He noted that the Arts Commission is hoping to find a facility where performances could be held, and added that there are offices available along the west wall of the building and one could be used for an office for the RAAC.

Councilwoman Mary Eadie suggested giving area nonprofit organizations until the end of the year to provide the City with proposals for use of the building. Rockford City Hall is located at 7 S. Monroe, Rockford, MI 49341.

Also on the evening’s agenda was an audit report from Peter Heafner of Vredeveld and Heafner, who annually audit the City. He reported that the City continues to be in good shape financially, and of the 11 municipalities the company audits, Rockford is ninth highest for general fund balance as a percentage of expenditures.

Jennifer German, branch manager for the Krause Memorial branch of the Kent District Library (KDL), also reported positive feedback regarding upgrades to the library funded by the City. Of KDL’s 18 branches, she reported that Krause has the distinction of being the busiest library of its size, with over 200,000 visits and 400,000 items checked out. She said staff answered over 62,000 questions from visitors in the year.

“[This year] shows no sign of slowing down,” German stated. She said as of September, there were 287,000 items checked out, up four percent from the prior year.

Young discussed the progress of the Wolverine World Wide plant demolition, which has moved into the stage of tearing down the old tannery building. He said the management plan to protect Rum Creek has two phases. The first phase is to tear everything down, including the two walls that contain the creek as it passes under the tannery building. Those two walls will be left at 48 inches in height and the creek will be completely covered until the remaining demolition is completed.

“As of the end of the year, everything will be gone except the two 48-inch walls,” Young stated. “At that point, Wolverine will decide the final disposition of the creek. They will decide whether they will try to remove the walls and return the creek to a soil bank or leave the walls.” He said air-monitoring is still taking place daily.

Young said site work for construction on the new shoe store is expected to continue through mid-February, and Wolverine hopes to open the new store by fall of next year.

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