Kymulga Grist Mill Task Force discuss temporary support of foundation
by Mark Ledbetter
CHILDERSBURG — Still looking at alternatives to save the Kymulga Grist Mill, Grist Task Force chairwoman Martha Little called in local resources Tuesday to discuss what can be done to temporarily reinforce the mill’s foundation.

Little announced at the Sept. 4 Childersburg Council meeting that the mill will be closed at the recommendation of engineers after inspecting the mill’s foundation.

“If one of the posts snap, it would be like dominoes, the engineer said,” Little explained. “No one inside would have time to get out, especially on the second floor.”

A previous estimate to improve the mill’s foundation submitted to the task force was $500,000 to $1 million..

Meeting with task force members at the mill were Tony Watson, representing Reeson Pipe Fabrication in Childersburg, and Childersburg resident and civil engineer Pat Wilson.

The mill visibly leans toward the creek, with a center support level dropping inches below the outer support next to the creek. Watson suggested supporting the foundation while jacking up the areas that have dropped and placing steel beams to support the building.

“Just me thinking but with local people working it would probably cost less that $50,000-$60,000,” Watson said.

An issue that would have to be resolved is diverting the water flow away from the mill foundation to place support under it.

Task force member Michael Maxwell suggested trying to use an old ditch dug to divert the Talladega Creek around the area when the mill was built in 1859-1860. Watson said all that was needed is to open one end of the dam and the water flow problem is solved when the water runs around the dam rather than over it.

For future interest, Wilson said it would be best if the water flow was permanently diverted away from the mill. “In time, water wins,” he said.

Park manager Ron Smith said the ideas were good but asked, “Where’s the money coming from?”

Little said the task force has $28,000 in the account. “We asked the city for money to obtain an engineer,” he said. “We could divert that money to the project.”

Little also suggested the city appropriate the funds for the project. When Little asked Mayor B.J. Meeks if that would be a possibility, he looked at her for a moment and said the city was in no position to allocate money. Citing projected revenue shortfalls for the coming year, Meeks said. “We can’t spend this year what we spent last year.”

Meeks did agree to the possibility of the city looking into assisting the task force with obtaining a loan if necessary.

Little shifted the meetings attention to appointing a manager for the project. Asking for volunteers, Maxwell said, “I’ll do it.”

Little said the project manager would need to coordinate the materials and money. “We’ve got to have a good leader to make sure you get it right.”

Task force member Jimmy Landers expressed his concerns regarding Maxwell taking on the role as project manager. Landers based his concerns on past performances he said Maxwell committed to but failed to follow through. “Will you do it?” Landers asked.

“I can do it,” Maxwell said. “I’ll dedicate my time off and evenings to this. I want to get this done!”

“If I see you aren’t moving on it, I’ll get someone that can,” Little told Watson.

After the meeting, Wilson expressed some concerns.

“I suggest you get something in writing,” Wilson told Little. “Let them put in writing what they are going to do, what they are willing to do and willing to furnish.”

Concerning the plans for jacking up the mill, Wilson said, “That building is where it is (structurally) over a long time. You are going to pick up on materials that are determined but put them back on things that are not going to move,” Wilson said.

“If you jack them (the three positions) one at a time you are going to warp the structure. Who knows about the old connections and the stress transfer?”

Wilson also pointed out that the building now is not attached to the foundation but is just sitting there. “Just placing it on beams is like putting it on skids and with a heavy rain it will be down the river,” he said.

During heavy rains the creek has risen to flood against the lower portion of the mill.

“This is critical, moving the structure three inches is a lot for old and brittle wood,” Meeks said.

“No one is going to give a million dollars to renovate the mill but if we can do this and save it for another 100, 150 years it will be worth it,” Little said.

Contact Mark Ledbetter at mledbetter@dailyhome.com

© 2012