FLINT, MI — The list of things that criminals in Flint will steal sometimes feels as if it is bounded only by their imagination, and now there’s one more thing we can add to that list: our history.
Thieves broke into the historic Durant-Dort Building on the corner of Water and Mason streets Wednesday night.
They were able to make off with about $40-$50 in loose change and petty cash from the building’s occupants, but a price can’t be put on the damage they did inside of the building.
David White, president of the Durant-Dort Carriage Co. Foundation, said the thieves destroyed the etched glass inside of the building, which was originally installed when the building was constructed in the late 1800s.
“It’s irreplaceable,” said White. “They just don’t make that kind of glass with that craftsmanship.”
The Durant-Dort office building, 316 Water St., was built in 1895-96 and was the home of the Durant-Dort Carriage Co. It served as a focal point for Billy Durant and J. Dallas Dort’s promotional activities in the carriage and automobile business.
It was also the place where Durant came up with the idea of General Motors.
Now, the building is home to the Genesee County Historical Society and area attorneys.
Attorney Daniel Andoni, whose office has been at the building for the past four years, said the historical impact of the damage wasn’t lost on him.
“This is where Billy Durant founded General Motors,” Andoni said.
White said the building’s alarm company reported the break-in but officers did not arrive on the scene until this morning when a secretary refused to enter the building until it was checked out.
While White said he knows Flint’s police are forced to prioritize calls, he said it feels like regular, tax-paying citizens and businesses are left to fend for themselves.
“We pay a lot of money in taxes and the police don’t come because they’re out dealing with another shooting,” said White.
White said the building has also been repeatedly victimized because the area has been without streetlights for nearly eight years.
The streetlights are owned by the city and the city has not allowed private entities to pay to repair a damaged electrical line, said White.
Kay Muhammad, the city’s transportation administrator, said the problem isn’t that simple.
Typically, Consumers Energy owns the street lights in the city, but when the project to rehabilitate Water Street was undertaken decorative lights were installed. Muhammad said the street lights were placed on a mixture of public right of way and private property and no plans or funding were included for maintenance on the lights.
Muhammad said the city is aware of the problem and working to find who owns the lights and find a solution. However, she said getting the lights turned back on would require a “massive project” that won’t be completed overnight.
She also denied that the city would refuse private funding to help fix the situation.
“We need to assure there is appropriate lighting,” Muhammad said.
So far, according to White, the building has had metal stolen from its air conditioning units, irrigation systems and spot lights in front of the building. It has also replaced five air conditioning units that were stolen in the past three years.
“We pay our taxes and we can’t get any help down there,” said White. By