Numbers add up in commute, too A group of former Wolverine World Wide tannery workers gathered back in Rockford during the final days of the demolition of their old workplace. Enjoying a midday meal at Sam’s Joint on Monday, Nov. 22, the group ranged from as few as 20 years in the tannery up to an amazing 45-and-a-half years at Wolverine. The “winner” in the experience category is Karen Kindel, who began working in the tannery in 1962. Kindel said the last 20 years she worked in the tannery she commuted from Ithaca—a daily round trip of 120 miles. Kindel, who had retired from the company before the tannery was shut down, said she feels terrible about the demolition, and working there was like working with family. Her best memories from her days there were her coworkers, she said. Cindy Koomen was a machineoperator for 34 years with the tannery. She said it was nice to get together with her friends and said it was a little bit sad watching the buildings come down. From Casnovia, Koomen has been taking pictures of the summer demolition. Nancy Fifield of Pierson worked for Wolverine World Wide for 42-and-a-half years and was a supervisor. She met her husband Roger while working there, and the two will be married 40 years next April. She started work in 1967 and said there were a lot of memories in the old buildings. “It’s surprising how much land they took up,” she said of the open space left by the demolition. “Even though the tannery is torn down the friendships there last forever,” said Koomen When added up, the years of tannery/Wolverine experience represented by the friends comes to a whopping 575 years.
Wolverine World Wide Tannery
by BETH ALTENA According to City Manager Michael Young, as of Thursday, Nov. 4, the Wolverine Tannery demolition of significant structures was “officially over” with the exception of the wastewater treatment plant and existing shoe store. The existing shoe store will remain and open for business until the new shoe and apparel store at the southern end of the property is ready to open. Over the next several weeks, contractors will remove remaining rubble and debris and bring in fill to raise the site. The focus is now on cleanup and redevelopment of the property, Young stated.
Company offers reassurance on safety precautions Readers have continued to express concerns over the safety of the demolition of the 100-plus year-old tannery in downtown Rockford. The Squire contacted Wolverine and asked that some of the concerns be addressed again. The following are points of the work plan prepared by Pitch Inc. and comments from Wolverine regarding safety precautions. Environmental Responsibility and Safety during Demolition of Former Wolverine World Wide Tannery Site: • During former tannery operations, Wolverine maintained a high level of environmental stewardship, and we are not aware of any environmental issues related to the site. In fact, over many years of continual operating, testing and permitting, no significant contamination issues were found. • It is noteworthy that both the Rogue River and Rum Creek, which runs directly under the former tannery site, are healthy water systems and have shown no signs of any negative environmental impact related to the tannery’s operations. • Wolverine World Wide selected Pitsch Companies, based in Grand Rapids, as the contractor who is handling all of the demolition, environmental testing and monitoring work. A copy of their detailed Work Plan is accessible from the City of Rockford website. • All required preparations were taken and the necessary permits and approvals were granted prior to the start of any work on the site. These included pre-demolition testing for asbestos-containing materials (ACM), PCB-containing materials, and lead-based paints, removal of any ACM and PCBs, and filing all notices required under state and federal law. In addition, all process chemicals were removed from the site, all process piping was cleaned, and all water used in the cleaning was cleaned and discharged under the proper permits. • The Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Environment (MDNRE) conducted an on-site inspection prior to any demolition work beginning and the City of Rockford issued a demolition permit. • The primary objective at the site during the clearing process is to safely and properly dispose of the buildings, structures, universal wastes, and non-hazardous wastes from the premises and restore the site to grade. As a precaution, any dust from the clearing activities will be suppressed with water, and the Work Plan details how that water will be diverted away from the Rogue River and […]