Final clean-up phase underway at Riverdale Mills Site

Published 8:45 am Friday, August 19, 2022

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VALLEY — Thomas Bush talked to the Valley City Council at Tuesday’s work session about the final cleanup that’s now underway at the Riverdale Mill site.

Bush is one of the owners of the Henry Hudson Company, which currently owns the site and is handling the cleanup work.

He assured Mayor Leonard Riley and members of the council that the cleanup would be 100 percent completed by the end of the current calendar year.

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At the present time, his work crew is busy with some needed work near their warehouse on River Road. He said that should take two or three more weeks, and when that’s completed they will be fully committed to finishing out the job at Riverdale.

“Riverdale will be the only other grading project we will have on our agenda at the time,” he said.

The historic mill office is still standing, but Bush isn’t sure it is viable for any future purpose. That part of the mill building could be torn down with debris being moved from the site.

There’s a huge hole on the site that needs to be filled in. Bush said there’s more than enough crushed concrete on the site to take care of that. His goal is for the site to be level enough for mowers to be easily able to cut the grass on the site.

“I believe the highest and best use for the land is for public enjoyment,” Bush said, making the case that the riverside location would make an excellent public park.

It’s the company’s intention to turn the site over to the city when all their work has been completed.

An old power plant on the site will likely be going away. It’s no longer in use and is owned by Georgia Power, which will likely be removing their dams on the river in the coming years.

“What’s to be done on the river is being decided in offices in downtown Atlanta,” Bush said. “There could be a whitewater course that rivals what’s in Columbus.”

Planning & Development Director Travis Carter said there might be a need to survey the site to determine where the state line is. Bush said he thinks it runs parallel to where a big hole is currently. A water-powered turbine that ran the mill in the 1800s was at the bottom of that 60-foot-deep hole.

Bush said there’s still some saleable brick on the site and that he’d like to do that before closing out.

He’s experiencing the same problem many other employers are dealing with —  the lack of help.

“I’m at 50 percent staff right now,” he said. “We have hired and lost four CDL drivers in the last four weeks.”

Council Member Kendall Andrews said he has no idea what Georgia Power is planning to do.

“They won’t tell me anything,” he said.

Bush said they have their own agenda.  He said he was on the Riverdale site one day when a line of 13 black SUVs arrived. He said it looked like organized crime was storming the powerhouse.

He later found out that Georgia Power attorneys were showing the site to officials from the Georgia Public Service Commission.

(Almost certainly, none of them knew where the 1868 state line was).

Bush said the lawyers will be determining the course of action for what will be taking place on the river.

“What they do will determine the future of the Valley,” Bush said.

Andrews said he would like to see a fixed date of Dec. 31, 2022, as he final day for the cleanup.

“Are we in agreement on that?” Riley asked Bush.

“We are,” he replied.

A member of the council asked Bush if there were any plans to sell the Steak & Shake building on Fob James Drive. His company owns both that building and the Zaxby’s restaurant next door.

“If you want it, I might give it to you,” he said jokingly.

Bush said that Steak & Shake had a good things going when they committed to a franchise, but poor management on the national level doomed the local restaurant.

At one time, Steak & Shake had over 3,000 locations nationwide. That number is down to 700.

“We need a grocery store on Fob James Drive.” Bush said. “If we had one there, that place would quickly fill up with businesses.”

Bush brought with him some examples of the reclaimed heart pine wood that’s being produced in the Henry Hudson Company wood mill on River Road. It’s most impressive and hard to believe it came out of an 1866 textile mill.

Located in the former WestPoint Stevens cotton warehouse, the wood mill provides a variety of products and services, including but not limited to custom flooring, custom lumber, accent wood, custom furniture and commercial storage.