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Taxpayers will foot $300,000+ bill for riot damage at county buildings

“We have no coverage for this, and the taxpayers are ultimately going to end up eating this,’’ Kent County Commissioner Tom Antor said on Thursday, June 4.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Riot damage to county-owned buildings in downtown Grand Rapids will exceed $300,000, which will come out of the pockets of Kent County taxpayers.

“We have no coverage for this, and the taxpayers are ultimately going to end up eating this,’’ Kent County Commissioner Tom Antor said on Thursday, June 4.

Repair costs will be paid from the county’s general fund, which Administrator Wayman Britt says has been strained by expenses tied to the coronavirus pandemic.

“When you do vandalism, when you do destruction to property – these are things that are not covered under most insurance policies,’’ he said.

Repair costs, he said, “is going to undermine our ability to deliver the services that we’re known for in this community.’’

A county building at 82 Ionia Avenue NW houses circuit court probation, Friend of the Court and the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office.

Damage, Britt said, was widespread.

“There was tremendous damage done to the first floor,’’ he said. “Took out a door. Took out windows. Ransacked the inside of the building. A lot of water damage because sprinkler heads came on. Someone attempted to set fire.’’

A few blocks north, at 180 Ottawa Avenue NW, state-of-the-art glass was shattered at the base of the building.

“It was very expensive because we wanted to make sure that it lasts forever,’’ he said.

Glass was broken at a county-owned building at 320 Ottawa Avenue NW. DeVos Place on Monroe Avenue NW also has a piece of glass shattered.

Vandals did not hit the Kent County administration building on Monroe Avenue NW, he said.

“Thank God it didn’t impact our administration building,’’ Britt said. “We were very fortunate.’’

Credit: 13 ON YOUR SIDE
Kent County Administrator Wayman Britt.

Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker said vandals were unable to reach his department on the fourth floor of 82 Ionia.

The damages, coupled with financial strain caused by the coronavirus pandemic, is disheartening, Becker said.

“We were looking for a hiring freeze in our office and across the county because of COVID-19 costs,’’ he said. “You throw this damage on top of it and it's hundreds of thousands of dollars.’’

Britt says he understands the frustration of protesters. 

“We have to change the way that we deal with and manage this insidious behavior of hate and bigotry that exists,’’ Britt said. 

The violence and destruction that followed the Saturday protest, he said, was counter-productive.

“My heart goes out to George Floyd’s family and all that’s happened,’’ Britt said. “Not just his family. But others that have passed due to racism and all that’s happening in our country today. But we’ve got to do it – we’ve got to deal with it in a different way.’’

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