Hall County officials remain very much committed to turning the historic Healan’s Mill in East Hall into a tourist attraction.
On Monday, the Board of Commissioners appeared ready to accept a recommendation to apply for a $300,000 matching grant with the Appalachian Regional Commission to purchase almost 99 acres surrounding the historic mill, which was originally known as Head’s Mill. The mill currently sits in a 4-acre tract on Whitehall Road in Lula.
Zach Propes, the county’s finance director, recommended approval of the grant application during Monday’s work session. He said the grant “would preserve the mill and enhance it by creating new natural and historic opportunities.” Propes said special purpose local option sales tax funds would be used for the match.
Commissioners will take up the recommendation at their meeting Thursday.
Assistant County Administrator Marty Nix, who has been working with county parks on the Healan’s Mill preservation project, said the purchase of additional property is key to developing the facility. Nix said mills are disappearing from the landscape.
“They’re getting fewer and fewer,” he said. “This one was built in the 1830s … We’d like to get the mill actually functioning again.”
The land purchase is the second of a four-phase plan for the historic mill. Initially, the county went in and stabilized the mill, which was falling in and had roof issues. The first phase was funded through SPLOST VII, which voters approved in March 2015. Phase 3 would include renovating the interior and making the mill operable again, while phase 4 envisions construction of a visitors’ and heritage center.
“We hope to develop that as a park and make it a nice place where visitors can come see a historic mill,” Nix said.
Propes said there would also be a matching fund to be provided at the county level and with a public-private group as well.
“We’re seeking approval of the application, and once it’s awarded, we’ll come back before you for approval of the award,” Propes said.