Warren’s Mill: Possible funding sources identified, structural stability in question

MILLSBORO – Locally historic, potentially educational and undoubtedly costly with an uncertain future.

That stands as the current status in the town of Millsboro efforts to incorporate hydro-electric power in restoration of Warren’s Mill, the town’s last standing grist mill that structurally may be in danger of caving in.

“You may already suspect but the building really is not stable,” said Carrie Kruger of Duffield Associates in a project update to council and town leaders at the Feb. 5 council meeting. “The structural engineer that works with Duffield … he wouldn’t go in. He didn’t feel safe going in. It is not stable, not very safe.”

Her Feb. 5 presentation included a “bit of bad news” structural update and on the brighter side a handful of possible funding sources.

In the spring of 2017 the town began exploring the possibility of restoring the mill, built in the early 1900s along State Street at Mill Pond, utilizing a hydro-electric generation component.

Last fall, Rick Beringer, senior environmental consultant with Duffield Associates, informed council rejuvenating and restoring the historic mill would be costly and likely dependent on grant funding.

Mr. Beringer presented two options: a vertical turbine like the one used in the mill and an Archimedes screw that is efficient but would deviate from the mill’s history.

That hasn’t changed.

Estimated costs 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 update.

Based on seasonal water flow, the 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.

“So, your return on investment is about 60 years,” said Ms. Kruger.

Consultants recommend a net-metering agreement between the town and Delmarva Power if the project reaches fruition.

Councilman Jim Kells asked if maintenance costs were factored into cost estimates. Ms. Kruger said she does not believe maintenance costs were included.

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

Turbine refurbishing is one option. That, Ms. Kruger said, would likely entail removing the existing turbine for analysis to determine if in fact it could be refurbished and if so how much it would cost.

“If you decide to continue to move forward with this, that is one thing I would recommend that you do, try to get that out of there,” said Ms. Kruger. “Sometimes refurbishing something that is old – mechanical equipment – is more. You never know.  We did find turbines, new ones similar, that operate almost same way.”

Structure analysis would determine if the structure needs to be totally dismantled. Ms. Kruger said Duffield’s opinion in a preliminary analysis is to “carefully dismantle” the structure down to the concrete to determine if some structural members could be reused to maintain the historical integrity of the structure. That process “has been done many times before,” said Ms. Kruger.

Further, Mr. Kruger said a more detailed structural analysis, perhaps by a structural engineer experienced in this type of building, would also determine if the building would need to be completely dismantled down to the concrete base or if it could be braced and/or shored up while it is reassembled, said Ms. Kruger.

She added a next step would be for Duffield to contact a connection at DNREC for input and opinion.

Warren’s Mill includes a two-story, rectangular-frame structure sheathed in clapboard and with a gambrel roof. It is positioned on a concrete foundation with a concrete spillway. The property also has an accompanying shed.

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

There are several potential funding sources, said Ms. Kruger, noting the town’s strong preference for grants rather than loans.

The source list includes USDA Rural Development, Delaware Department of Transportation, Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and the State Historical Preservation Office.

The benevolent Longwood Foundation could be another funding source, but that would require connection to a certified non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, Mr. Kruger said. She suggested the town might want to consider something along the lines of a historical council or even a Friends of Warren Mill organization.

“It could be an organization that takes charge of this project,” said Ms. Kruger. “You may want to seriously consider getting a group together if you are real serious about this project and forming such a group and getting that 501(c)(3) status on it.”

Thus far, the town has invested $22,282.36 in progressing through initial phases of this project, Millsboro Town Manager Sheldon Hudson said.

“I can’t speak for council but with all of the other projects the town has undertaken I would assume that council would want to get some sort of financial assistance from the state or a non-profit to assist in covering the costs,” said Mr. Hudson. “There are so many other things that the town is undertaking at the moment; competing for air so to speak.”

“But there is a lot of interest in it, and excitement in the project, too,” Mr. Hudson said. “It will be interesting to see how it plays out.”

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

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