BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – The Bellows Falls Historical Society is close to getting a two-year lease with purchase option for the historic TLR Mill.
A Rockingham Town Selectboard motion to authorize Municipal Manager Chip Stearns to work with the town’s attorney and proceed with a lease agreement that has an option to purchase passed unanimously.
Selectboard Chair Lamont Barnett said that if the board approves the request, specific dates for updates, along with an end date, must be included in the lease agreement. Barnett also said that there should be a plan if the project does not go as expected.
The TLR complex is located near buildings the Historical Society already owns, including the Adams Grist Mill and Museum, and is surrounded by eight acres of property owned by the society.
“The building is the jewel of the community since 1831,” Adams Grist Mill Curator Chris Glenn said. “This building isn’t going anywhere; if we don’t have a vision, we should tear them all down.”
Voters opted against demolishing the TLR building at the annual town meeting in February.
A letter from Steward Read, treasurer for the Bellows Falls Historical Society, to Barnett stated that the society requested that the Town of Rockingham lease the TLR Mill complex for a year to the society with an option to purchase the property for $1 during that period, due to the necessary brownfield remediation and redevelopment costs.
Read said the society has lined up assistance for brownfield remediation planning that it would provide at its own expense. The society also has a general liability insurance policy on the property and will organize a community cleanup of the brush around the exterior.
Sustainable Valley Group Director Gary Fox said that a display was put up expressing a few of designer Dan Scott’s renditions of what the building may look like upon completion.
At the February meeting at the Historical Society, a discussion took place between the Sustainable Valley Group in conjunction with the Bellows Falls Historical Society concerning the future of the building on Mill Street.
The town took ownership of the TLR Mill via a tax sale. Multiple feasibility studies have been conducted since 1994.
A preliminary mill project timeline calls for a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cleanup application in late 2016, and an action plan for cleanup and community input into the project developed from October 2017 to September 2020.
If EPA funds are not available, development cleanup funding alternatives will be sought, representatives said.
Selectboard member Peter Golec said that the Wyman-Flint Building owned by the Historical Society shows significant deterioration, with nothing being done on that property.
Golec said that there has been no communication with the town from the Historical Society on what is happening with their buildings, and their appearance is of neglect and deterioration.
Glenn said that there is work being done, but it is slow and dependent on funding.
Glenn said that there are plans for a capital funding campaign.