Tuesday, March 25th, 2014
By Amy Kronenberger
St. Marys sees mill's potential
  ST. MARYS - Council members on Monday had their first look at what a remodeled High Street grist mill might look like if funds can be raised.
St. Marys economic development director Susan Crotty gave a short presentation on the potential project at Monday's council meeting.
Crotty said the St. Marys Community Improvement Corporation hired an engineer and artist to create the drawings.
"We wanted to get these renderings together to share a vision of what it would look like," she said. "In order for us to save the building and do it in a manner that's feasible, we looked at an option to take it down to it's original core."
The artist used a drawing of the original mill done in the 1880s as his inspiration, Crotty said.
The building would be a simple 60-foot-by-40-foot three-story building. The basement would be level with the canal and walled with the building's existing limestone. The main floor would be street level. Above the sandstone, the building would have siding. The renderings showed a deck with tables overlooking the canal at the main level.
Crotty said the goal is to use the mill for a museum and event space. It would have a working water wheel and a foot bridge over the canal connecting the mill to the shelter house. Also included in the restoration plans are the dredging and cleanup of the canal through town.
Crotty prepared the presentation after learning the state funding she requested may be partially granted. She learned $250,000 has been earmarked in the pending state budget bill to help pay for the estimated $2 million project. She had requested $1.75 million.
"Not quite at the level I asked for, but I am very appreciative that we were included," she said. "We're happy to be included in the budget."
The $2 billion state budget bill sets aside $150 million for community projects throughout Ohio. The Grand Lake area was earmarked for more than $4 million for various projects. Funding will not be finalized until the bill is passed this summer.
"It's not voted on yet, but we expect it to go through," Crotty said.
Crotty added she will continue to look for other funding options and knows of a few other potential sources. She will also look into donations, she said. The city will only move forward with renovation if enough funds can be raised and if council gives final approval. The city also must purchase the mill from owner James Heinrich and the land from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
The mill was named as an historic landmark in 2010. As such, the mill cannot be torn down unless it becomes a safety threat and no other options are available. The city's only options are to leave the mill as is, or raise the money to restore it.
Also on Monday, council members,
• heard an update on Grand Lake from Lake Restoration Commission manager Milt Miller. He said officials are looking into using dredged silt to construct 15 to 20 1-acre islands in the lake. Also, the state may give $2.1 million to construct a treatment train in Coldwater Creek, he said. The Prairie Creek treatment train has been a success, Miller said, and the LRC's goal is to install treatment trains in every tributary to the lake.
• learned the city's feral cat problem is on the rise again. Safety service director Greg Foxhoven said they will need to come up with a humane way to decrease the population.
• learned a quarterly newsletter will be prepared for city employees. Any council members wanting to include information in the newsletter must submit it to Foxhoven.
• learned the ninth and final house will soon be demolished using grant money from Moving Ohio Forward. The house is located on Columbia Street.
• passed in third reading an ordinance authorizing American Municipal Power to negotiate possible lower electric rates for the city.
• gave second reading to an ordinance that would allow Foxhoven to hire a consultant for no more than $75,000 to oversee the purchase and installation of an automated meter reading infrastructure.
Foxhoven has said he and city crews have been working on the project for the last year and have realized it is too big to handle by themselves. He said they don't have enough in-house expertise to handle the $1 million overhaul of the city's meters. He recommended hiring Arcadis FPS, Inc., Toledo, to oversee the project.
• scheduled finance and traffic committee meetings for 5 p.m. and 5:15 p.m., respectively, on April 7 at the municipal building. Council's next regular meeting is 7 p.m. April 14 also at the municipal building.
• met in executive session to discuss employee compensation. No action was taken following the session.
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