What to name a Barry County building was discussed by County Commissioners Tuesday. The building, acquired by the county in a land swap with the City of Hastings several years ago and renovated for county offices, is being called by some of its past uses; the old library building, the old post office, the community building.
Commissioner Ben Geiger suggested the Mellon Building after Andrew Mellon, the name is on the cornerstone. Commissioner Dan Parker suggested the People’s Building because the taxpayers paid for it and it is their building. Commissioner Jon Smelker didn’t support the Mellon name, saying Kim Sigler, the 40th Governor of Michigan and Hastings resident was better, but he leaned toward the People’s Building. In the end, the commission voted unanimously to send Vivian Conner’s choice, The Cabinet Building, to the full board for approval.
Smelker noted it was a recommendation to the full board and they might hear from the public on names over the next week.
Conner said several Southwest Michigan counties were named after men who were in President Andrew Jackson’s cabinet, with Barry already one of 10 “Cabinet Counties” in Southwest Michigan, so the name would be a good fit. Barry County came from William T. Barry, then U. S. Postmaster General.
Other counties got their names from cabinet members; John M. Berrien, John Branch, John C. Calhoun, Lewis Cass, John Eaton, Samuel D. Ingham, Edward Livingston, Martin Van Buren, and newly-elected President Andrew Jackson.
The story goes that the mass naming of the counties for Jackson’s cabinet was to curry favor with the federal government in a dispute over 468 square miles along the Ohio border. Eventually, the federal government gave the property to Ohio and Michigan get a large piece of the Upper Peninsula.
In public comment, Sharon Zebrowski said she was disappointed the commission did not allow time for the public to submit names for the building before they made a decision. The name should be serious and reflect Barry County, Zebrowski said. “If the taxpayers paid for the building, we have the right to at least submit names.”
Hastings Township Supervisor Jim Brown agreed, although he did say it didn’t matter what they named it, people would still call it the old library building. //
In other business, the commission recommended rezoning property in Section 20 of Hastings Township from Rural Residential to High Density Residential. The change has been approved by the Planning Commission; state law requires commission approval of all rezoning requests.
The commission also recommended Conner and Parker to represent Barry County on the Southwest Michigan Region 3 SMART Committee. The purpose of the SMART committee is to hare information, learn from each other and build unity among the 14 counties in Region 3.
(For more on Michigan history, read Forgotten Tales of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula by Alan Naldrett.)