Step by step: Mill City starts down the road to recovery after fire

October, 2015 Posted in Community, News

By Mary Owen

Mill City’s recovery from the August accidental fire that destroyed the building that housed the city’s library, records archive, public works department, and the Linn County Sheriff’s Office substation is in the planning stages.

“We are intentionally in limbo,” Mayor Thorin Thacker said about moving forward after the Aug. 27 fire. “Once the insurance claim is finalized, the city council can convene to discuss our options and move forward.”

One of the first steps will be to demolish the Second Avenue building, insured for $519,200 plus $25,000 for contents.

“Not only is the building a hazard, but it’s also heartbreaking,” he said. “We will take it down after all inspections and tests are done.” Thacker said the city is working with the insurance company and dealing with demolition in a timely manner “will re-instill faith in the community.”

City files lost in the blaze were files that the city was mandated to hold. “Vital files are store off-site,” he said. “To replace the other files, we are contacting agencies who might have copies of what we lost.”

Linn County Sheriff Bruce Riley credited moving to City Hall following the fire for keeping police services intact.

“We were able to put a couple of computers in there,” Riley said. “The system was only down for a couple of hours. We didn’t miss a beat at all!”

Finding a permanent location is the sheriff department’s long-term fix, as well as replacing furniture, file cabinets, computers and radio communication equipment destroyed in the fire for a $29,705 loss, Riley said.

Thacker said space to accommodate police services was taken into account when the city built its new City Hall. Riley said his agency is considering that option.

The toughest to move – partly because of tools and equipment – Mill City’s public works department is operating out of an old shop building on NE Wall Street, scheduled for removal in the near future, Thacker said.

“Ironically, we already had funds in the budget for a new public works building,” he said. “And we were already planning to tear down the one public works is currently using because it sits on top of a public lot the city has turned into a park. We want to use the site to build a covered area for the park.”

Hardest hit was the city’s volunteer library, headed by director Susann Keller.

“The library board is working to begin the process of restoration,” said Keller, who is a city councilor. “We were able to salvage our card catalog, so we have a record of our more than 10,200 titles. We will be working to gather replacement titles for these and to add titles, but at this time we don’t have a storage facility and are only working on financial donations.”

Loss of the library failed to dampen community spirit. Keller said she has been contacted by a groups and individuals who want to help.

“Since we are a totally volunteer organization, any and all assistance will be greatly appreciated,” she said. “Once we know more about a location and building, we will be gathering supplies, books, computers, shelving and all the other items needed to reopen.”

Library books checked out prior to the fire can be dropped off at City Hall or at the Mill City Pharmacy.

“I am committed to getting the Mill City Library up and running again as soon as possible, but I temper that with a good deal of patience,” Keller said. “Having survived the City Hall fire, I know that the timeline can be a year or more, so we are starting slow and easy on all fronts, but donations can be stored elsewhere and financial assistance for future needs would be wonderful.”

Financial donations for the library can be sent to Mill City Library, PO Box 1194, Mill City, OR 97360.

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