Jean Dresen, WLAA director, tapes a No Trespassing sign on an office window of the former Shellcast building in Whitehall Township which the ambulance service is renovating. Thieves stole thousands of dollars worth of electrical wiring and equipment from
The renovation of the former Shellcast casting facility into a larger space for the White Lake Ambulance Authority (WLAA) has had a setback with the recent theft of much of the building’s electrical system, including copper wiring and a transformer.
WLAA Director Jean Dresen discovered the breaking and entering of the building Friday morning, Sept. 14, when she stopped to check on the facility. She reported the incident to the Muskegon County Sheriff’s Department at 9:05 a.m.
“It makes me sick,” Dresen said when showing the thieves handiwork to the media Monday morning, while WLAA Board member Dennis Atchison was cleaning out a storage building on the site and while she was waiting for some landscaping work to be done on the interior.
The facility is located at 3282 Colby Rd. behind the Arby’s restaurant and next to the closed landfill.
A final estimate on the monetary loss has not been made, but Dresen said a local electrician believed it could be as high as $50,000. The sheriff’s department report put an initial estimate of loss at $25,000.
Thieves sell the copper wiring for its value on the metal recyling market.
Dresen showed where suspects entered the building through a boarded up window on the southeast side of the building. Once the building was entered, she said they opened an overhead door and drove a vehicle inside. She said a water puddle from the vehicle’s air conditioning condenser was still on the concrete floor.
She said the last time anyone was in the building was two weeks prior to her discovery of the break-in.
The suspects then removed wiring from different areas of the large structure, removed a large transformer which she estimated to weight between 300 and 400 pounds, and removed an electric meter and service recently installed in the building.
Ceiling tiles in the office area were knocked out to gain access to wiring, and a phone system and Internet system were also taken.
Dresen said she did not know who would have taken the wiring, but they knew what they were after. However, they forgot to shut off the electrical service when clipping wires at the new panel which showed burns marks from arcing.
Deputy Joe Gabriel said he did not find footprints around the exterior of the building, and while he located tire marks in the dirt portion of the driveway, he did not see tire impressions or tread marks.
Gabriel wrote that he found evidence inside, including wire, water bottle, plastic tub and gloves.
The deputy said he will be contacting local metal scrap yards to determine if any of the stolen material was turned in for scrap.
Last Monday morning Dresen posted No Trespassing Signs on the building.
The director said WLAA hoped to be in the facility by the end of this year, but because of the theft it may be delayed to spring or summer.
She said the building was insured.
This spring a search for a larger facility to house the WLAA ambulances, offices and training room and sleeping quarters ended in the donation of the spacious 27,000 square foot building by Ellie Krause and family. Her late husband founded Shellcast which moved to the Montague Industrial Park. Currently, WLAA is located in cramped facilities at 119 S. Baldwin St., Whitehall, next to the White Lake Fire Authority Station 1 and the Whitehall City Hall.
WLAA estimated it would cost $250,000 to renovate the building for its use. Additional space could be rented.