Millsboro council OKs next step in mill’s hydro-electric potential

 

MILLSBORO – Millsboro town council is taking another step forward in efforts to preserve the town’s last historic mill through restoration that incorporates hydro-electric generation.

Potential hydro-electric generation is being explored in the town of Millsboro’s efforts to restore historic Warren’s Mill.

Rick Beringer, senior environmental consultant with Duffield Associates, in a project status update at the Aug. 7 council meeting informed town leaders that inspection of Warren’s Mill identified “no fatal flaws,” according to Millsboro Town Manager Sheldon Hudson.

“So, council approved taking the next step, which I believe more or less involves getting some sort of cost estimate as well as getting a sense in terms of what grant opportunities might be out there,” Mr. Hudson said.

At council’s June 5 meeting, Mr. Beringer’s update presentation included estimated kilowatt production, projected revenue, grant-funding possibilities and next-step options.

The idea in principle is simply to restore the mill “just like it was when it was a grinding mill. The turbine that is in the mill turns a shaft and the shaft turns the generator instead of a grinding wheel,” said Mr. Beringer. “You replace the grinding wheel with a generator.”

Estimated energy power potential is somewhere between 6 kilowatts and 14 kilowatts, which on an annual basis would generate $5,000 to about $6,000 worth of electric in retail, Mr. Beringer said.

That would require a trade agreement with Delmarva Power through net-metering where flow goes out from the town and then the flow comes back to the town, according to Mr. Beringer said.

Warren’s Mill, built in the early 1900s as a grist mill, is a two-story, rectangular structure sheathed in clapboard and with a gambrel roof. It is positioned on a concrete foundation with a concrete spillway.

Warren’s Mill was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

Some restoration work will be required, including some foundation sills.

Millsboro’s project is believed to be the first in the state of Delaware where a mill is possibly being revived for hydroelectric power, Mr. Beringer said.

Clarification on billboards

Mary Schrider-Fox, Millsboro’s solicitor, provided clarification relative to the town sign ordinance, specifically regarding billboards; if billboards could be permitted.

“The code says that they are not permitted but I guess the question was: If you had a property owner who wanted to annex into town and he or she had a billboard on his or her property, would they be able to be grandfathered in?” said Mr. Hudson.

Ms. Schrider-Fox said they could, according to Mr. Hudson.

“Apparently some sort of action was taken back in 2011 that allowed those business owners or whomever with non-conforming signs to have a 15-year period to allow for depreciation of those signs. According to the town solicitor billboards would be covered under that as well. So, if you had someone annex into town they would be a beneficiary of that. Of course, we are now in 2017 so basically there is nine years left at this point. But the bottom line is – they’d have about nine years,” Mr. Hudson said. “I think that is a nice potentially economic development draw for a prospective town of Millsboro business. I can think of a couple businesses along U.S. 113 that might find that attractive.”

Major subdivision

Major subdivision of property on the west side of U.S. 113 was approved. Development plans include the site of the Farmers Bank of Willard, which is currently under construction and a shopping center with a quick-serve restaurant with a drive-thru, a paint store and one other unspecified retail business. A third parcel is earmarked for a large retailer dealing in tractor implements and outdoor items and a fourth parcel has yet to be determined.

The next step is a preliminary site plan brought before council, Mr. Hudson said.

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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