Date Set For Mill Project To Begin

Managing Editor

After years of phone calls, meetings and back and forth with multiple agencies, architects and contractors, a date has been decided on to begin reconstruction of the reservoir mill.

During last month’s St. Marys City Council meeting, Director of Public Service and Safety Greg Foxhoven announced that a bid came in for the project at $1,039,650 — a little more than what the city had budgeted for the project, but it won’t stop the project from finally moving forward.

Foxhoven said Bruns Construction President Randy Bruns, Senior Associate Architect of Moody & Nolan Rex Hagerling and members of the city of St. Marys met last Thursday to make sure everyone was on the same page with regards to the project and all parties gave a green light.

“We just wanted to make sure there were no surprises and there were only a few questions,” Foxhoven said. “We feel confident that their bid is pretty solid, which means that there will be limited change orders — which is always good for us. They are a local business that does a lot of work in St. Marys.

“We were encouraged by our meeting that they were in agreement so we felt very good about it.”

Foxhoven added that he and Superintendent of Community Services and Engineering Craig Moeller both felt that the contractor is excited about the project and the architect seemed satisfied with their knowledge and working with it the types of timbers that are going to be used.

“We are ready to get Phase I started,” Foxhoven said. “We want the community to see the progress that has been made.”

The city is using the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) to complete Phase I of the project. Phase I would include removal of modern additions, and repair/replacement of siding, windows and the roof. These proposed improvements would preserve and protect the building from further exposure to moisture and would improve the integrity of the building. No plumbing, electric or other utilities will be added in Phase I. If Phase I is not completed in the near future, the building will soon no longer be salvageable.

Foxhoven added that crews plan on construction beginning around Nov. 1 and gave about a seven-month work timeline with an additional three months to factor in any weather issues, meaning Phase I is scheduled to take about 10 months to complete.

The original structure (40-by-60-foot central building) and foundation have been determined to be solid and sufficient to support the work proposed.

The funds being proposed for Phase I are from a federal grant program and if more funds are needed for business loans, additional grant money can be requested from the state. The use of the excess RLF funds is restricted by federal guidelines and may only be used for limited purposes, but the mill meets the criteria of the removal of slum and blight in order to use the funds.

The RLF is from the federal government but trickles down to the state level who then filters it down to the local governments.

Foxhoven said the account has $1,263,200 and the city does not have to pay the money back — despite it being a loan. Earmarked for the project is $1 million, with the additional $263,200 being held for local businesses in regards to developmental purposes.

“The money that we are allowed to use is money the state is paying to get the project done,” Foxhoven.

After years of working with several agencies, the project has picked up steam since the beginning of the year.

The city of St. Marys was transferred canal lands under the mill by the state in late December, early January and shortly after, the city became owners of the mill. As part of the project, the St. Marys Community Improvement Corporation voted to purchase 20 hand-hewn, chestnut beams from the Lawler family to be used in the mill project. The beams are from the same time period as the construction of the mill and were original to the Dieker House — a hotel that used to sit on the corner of Spring and Chestnut streets.

The cost of the beams came in at $250 each for a total of $5,000. Beams of that era in the quality of condition they are in can go for much more than that on the open market.

On July 24, bids were opened with a number of contractors attending the meeting. Bids then closed at noon Aug. 22. During an Aug. 24 city council meeting, Foxhoven announced that the city received a bid from Bruns Construction at around $1,039,000 — which was higher than the engineer’s estimate — then last week, all parties met to set a timeline for the project.

“We have been working heavily on it for the last five years,” Foxhoven said. “We heard both sides of the argument — restore it and demo it — and there have been times where we have been on both sides. But it got to be tricky because we didn’t own it, we talked to the owner and rehabilitation was not an option, it was a historic building and it’s complicated and unique and it has taken a lot of work to get through it.”

To complicate matters with the mill, Foxhoven said there has been turnover at the Ohio Historical Society, which has forced discussions regarding the mill’s west shed to have to be reset on a few occasions. The city will talk to a third representative from the Ohio Historical Society on Wednesday.

“We don’t want to do anything that will jeopardize our potential start date of Nov. 1, but we are going to get them to approve the project without the west shed,” he added. “We simply do not think it is feasible. It is in horrible shape, the whole thing will more than likely need to be reconstructed, but we just don’t know what they will say.”

Foxhoven added that the price tag to work on the west shed is $149,000, which is factored into the city’s $1 million budget and Bruns’ $1.039 million bid estimate for the project, however, if the historical society allows the city to hold off on having to reconstruct the west shed, it would save $149,000.