DIYers could soon get free supplies from Kent County

Grand Rapids

A concept rendering provided by the Kent County Department of Public Works shows the agency’s new administrative offices and chemical redistribution facility at its recycling site at 977 Wealthy Street SW in Grand Rapids.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A $4 million project slated for Grand Rapids will house a treasure trove of free supplies for do-it-yourselfers.

The Kent County Department of Public Works plans to demolish three buildings adjacent to its recycling center on Wealthy Street near Lane Avenue SW and build administrative offices and a SafeChem reuse facility.

(A site plan provided by the Kent County Department of Public Works shows the proposed layout for the agency’s new administrative offices and chemical redistribution facility at its recycling site at 977 Wealthy Street SW in Grand Rapids.)

DPW Director Darwin Baas said the county’s SafeChem program has been collecting chemicals from residents for about 30 years but never had a way to redistribute those items to the public. The new center will give people who work, live and play in Kent County free access to a plethora of products, including wood stain, varnishes, window and surface cleaners, motor oil, car cleaners, lawn fertilizer, laundry detergent and pool and spa chemicals.

“(It’s) anything you can think of when you’re walking down the aisle at Meijer,” Baas said.

He said the county amassed many perfectly fine products from residents who just didn’t like what they bought or cleaned out a home they were preparing to sell.

“We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could have a way to get these things back to residents who need them?’” Baas said.

Right now, Kent County DPW pays for the chemicals to be properly processed and disposed of, which cost the agency $111,000 last year, according to Baas. The DPW expects the reuse facility would cut those costs by about 20% while providing supplies for people who may have to choose between food and cleaners.

He said similar programs in other places including Kalamazoo County have been very successful.

The $4 million project will be paid for entirely through the Kent County DPW’s capital improvement fund, which is generated by fees charged at the landfill, recycling and mixed energy facilities.

If the city approves the permits and plans, Baas said demolition for the project could start next week. The goal is to have staff move in and the reuse site up and running in late November or early December.

The Kent County DPW’s move is in anticipation of the county road commission selling its property at the corner of Scribner and Front avenues, where the DPW has been leasing office space.

The county is expected to sell the Scribner Avenue property to the city of Grand Rapids, which would then move its public service department into the space and off of 201 Market Ave. SW, freeing up that parcel for redevelopment that may include an amphitheater, green space, housing and retail.

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