Federal grants could help Sibley Mill cleanup

The Augusta Canal Authority is applying for three grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The authority purchased the historic mill last week from Avondale Mills.

A series of matching federal grants could help the Augusta Canal Authority begin environmental cleanup at Sibley Mill as early as 2011.

"Our initial emphasis will be on source material, primarily soil that needs to be removed," said Dayton Sherrouse, the authority's executive director.

The canal authority purchased the historic, 518,000-square-foot mill last week from Avondale Mills.

Applications are due in October for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grants that could help finance cleanup work that would make the site more attractive for redevelopment.

"Our intent is to do the work as we get money," he said. "The grant limit in these programs is $200,000, but it is possible to get multiple grants for one site, so that is what we are pursuing."

Applications will be filed for three such grants -- each requiring a 20 percent local match. If all are approved, the authority could receive as much as $600,000 with matching requirements totaling $120,000, creating a $720,000 cleanup fund.

In addition to removal of contaminated soil, other needed work includes demolition of nonhistoric out buildings and removal of asbestos and lead-based paint inside the mill.

"Our goal is to get it ready for a developer so we are starting on the outside," Sherrouse said. "Most of the inside stuff would logically be done by a developer. They would be tearing out things and working inside the building anyway."

The authority's $800,000 purchase also includes the mill's turbines and its electricity.

The water-powered generators typically earn $1,200 to $1,300 per day through power sales, which could help the authority maintain the site and provide matching funds for the grants.

Future plans include marketing the site for uses that might include residential, professional and commercial uses.

In 2001, the canal authority purchased Sibley's next-door neighbor, King Mill, for $250,000.

The authority then leased the building to a new operator, Ohio-based Standard Textile, which has kept it open as an active manufacturer and employer.

Cleanup goals

- Removal of contaminated soil

- Demolition of nonhistoric out buildings

- Removal of asbestos and lead-based paint