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Committee to consider purchase of historic mill

By Staff | May 26, 2017

At a special meeting Tuesday night, the Corporation of Shepherdstown Town Council convened to discuss the possible purchase of the historic Thomas Shepherd’s Grist Mill.

In a slight change of format, which left a few residents flummoxed, the council took questions from the audience prior to discussing the property.

Shepherdstown Mayor Jim Auxer stated, however, that the council intended to hear comments and concerns from residents in order to make a more informed decision.

“When the town makes a decision on purchasing the property, we may go into executive session. So, after hearing comments, we may make an offer on the mill,” Auxer said.

Residents were then invited to step up to the podium to voice their opinions on the fate of the historic property.

“I feel strongly that the mill should belong to the town, not just because of state heritage, but because of the town heritage,” said longtime resident Cheryl Pullen, who lives behind the property.

Other residents, however, were not keen on providing comment prior to knowing the council’s plans.

“I believe the Grist Mill is a wonderful asset to this community, no matter who owns it – it isn’t going anywhere,” said Sonja Evanisko, a resident who has lived near the mill for almost 25 years. “However, I feel uncomfortable to give my comments before knowing the intentions of the town council.”

In response, Auxer said the council had intentions to make a bid on the property during an auction, which was scheduled to take place May 16 but was canceled at the last minute – a move which Auxer said the council was given no prior knowledge.

Funding of a potential purchase, including the upkeep of the property, was a major area of concern for those in attendance.

“While I love the dream of having the town acquire the mill as a civic asset it is going to take more money than we have,” said John Meeker, a resident who lives adjacent to the property. “I wonder if in throwing significant capital resources into (the purchase of the property), if the town will have enough resources to make use of it in any way.”

Some council members shared residents’ concerns over the property’s fate.

“If we don’t try to save it for historic reasons, and someone else (comes in to buy it) and doesn’t maintain it, what responsibility does the town have then? We have to at least try to acquire it for historic and educational reasons,” said councilmember Cheryl Roberts.

When all those in attendance had voiced their concerns, Auxer made a motion for the council to enter into an executive session to discuss the property.

While residents talked among themselves regarding the property, the council emerged from the 20-minute deliberation with a decision to take no action at the present time.

Instead, a motion was put forth and passed for councilmember Mark Everhart to head up a committee to investigate the potential costs associated with the purchase of the mill. Meeker and Pullen both volunteered to participate in the new committee going forward.

While the fate of Thomas Shepherd’s Grist Mill remains up in the air, the town council is taking steps to ensure the property maintains its historic prominence within Shepherdstown.