Options, recommendations presented for restoring Warren’s Mill

 

Warren’s Mill, the town of Millsboro’s last standing grist mill.

MILLSBORO — Hopeful restoration of historic Warren’s Mill through hydroelectric generation has come to a fork in the road.

It’s decision time for Millsboro’s town leaders.

Formation of a non-profit organization to pursue potential substantial grant funding as well as a possible state pilot option were among the recommendations in an update from Carrie A. Kruger, project manager for Duffield Associates.

A notable bullet point in the April 2 update to town council was Duffield’s recommendation for town council to not spend additional money in applying for funding for the restoration/conversion project in efforts to save Millsboro’s last standing grist mill.

“In a nutshell, it would be hard for me to recommend expending funds to actually apply for grants or loans for this project at this time. It just didn’t seem very feasible,” said Ms. Kruger.

She told council the amount of potential funding from various sources would likely be substantially offset by application costs. “I don’t think it would make it worth it,” she said. “What I do think may be worthwhile in pursuing this is to form the non-profit organization and have them take this on. That’s for a number of reasons. One, is the Welfare and Longwood foundations provide funding to non-profit organizations only. They actually do in some cases provide funding in the six figures to worthwhile projects such as this.”

Built in the early 1900s, Warren’s Mill has deteriorated greatly over the years. A preliminary assessment by Duffield indicates the structure sheathed in clapboard and with a gambrel roof may be structurally in danger of collapsing.

In the spring of 2017 the town began exploring the possibility of restoring the mill, located along Betts Pond Road/W. State Street at Mill Pond, utilizing a hydro-electric generation component.

Initial cost estimates range from $321,000 to $384,00 depending on type of turbine and extent of site modification required to install equipment, according to Duffield’s assessment.

Based on seasonal water flow, energy power potential is projected at somewhere between 6 kilowatts in August and September to 14 kilowatts in March. That translates to an estimated annual retail value of electricity at approximately $6,200, based on the rate Millsboro is charged by Delmarva Power. That, in turn, would mean an approximate 60-year return on investment.

Carrie Kruger goes over Duffield Associates’ updated options and recommendations for Warren’s Mill with Millsboro’s town council.

Two options for power generation presented by Duffield representatives are a vertical turbine similar to the one used in the mill, and an Archimedes screw that is efficient but would deviate from the mill’s history.

Ms. Kruger said Duffield in late March met with representatives from state agencies, including the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control/Sustainable Energy Utility.

“The most promising thing out of that meeting was talk of using Warren’s Mill hydroelectric potential as a pilot project for the state. The Sustainable Energy Utility, a woman at the meeting representing them said they run these pilot programs. She did indicate that the pilot program may be enough to pay for the renewable energy equipment,” said Ms. Kruger. “But it would not of course pay for any of the building restoration. And that may be where a non-profit may come in.”

Ms. Kruger suggested the town may want to seriously consider a pilot offer.

“If the SEU does come back and say it’s a pilot, ‘We want to use this as a pilot project,’ I would recommend that you do jump on that, just because one of the questions that arose in that meeting was, ‘Well, how many dams like this are there that we could get renewable energy from in the state?’ Well, there are hundreds, north and south. They are all over the place. And they only do one pilot project,” Ms. Kruger said.

Duffield’s recommendations include:

  • Reaching out to the town’s local elected state officials, State Sen. Gerald Hocker and State Rep. Rich Collins, on possible financial support through the Community Transportation Fund;
  • Consider pursuing funding from USDA Rural Development’s Community Facilities Grant; DelDOT Mitigation Projects; Surface Water Matching Grant; Delaware Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program; DNREC Sustainable Energy Utility; Delaware Division of Energy and Climate; and Longwood Foundation;
  • Consider forming a 501(c)3 with town council members, community members and other interested persons or parties to allow for individual donation opportunities, personal community investment and other possible finding sources.

Millsboro Mayor John Thoroughgood, who has emphasized the mill’s historical significance, said the town will consider its options.

“You’ve done everything as far as the engineering part of it to that point,” said Mayor Thoroughgood. “It’s doable, right?

“I believe so,” Ms. Kruger said.

“Just stayed tuned,” the mayor said. “Maybe we’ll work on it on this end with the council.”

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

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