Permit paves way for partial mill demolition

But owners of Waubeka landmark still face challenges in plan to transform property

Charles Sheridan Sr.
By 
DAN BENSON
Ozaukee Press Staff

The owners of the Waubeka mill have received a permit from the Fredonia town clerk to begin a partial demolition of the building.

But issues continue to mount regarding the dilapidated building, and the Fredonia Town Board recently voted to consult an attorney to help determine the town’s liabilities.

Charles Sheridan Sr., who is listed on state documents as the “agent” for Waubeka Development LLC, which owns the building, applied for a demolition permit from the town in July to remove part of the building.

A town email refers to Sheridan’s son, Charles Sheridan Jr., as the owner.

The mill building, W4132 Mill St., is one of the oldest structures in Waubeka and has been out of use since the mid-1990s.

Its appraised value is $14,000, according to the demolition report. Waubeka Development bought the mill for $1,000 this spring. 

According to an email from the elder Sheridan to the town, “the corporation does not want to put $4,000 into demolition until we know that environmental closure” is granted by the state Department of Natural Resources, which is inspecting a 300-gallon underground fuel storage tank on the east side of the property and near the right of way of Mill Road, which is owned by the town.

The DNR is not expected to give clearance until October, officials said.

Fuel contamination has been found down the slope toward the Milwaukee River and 10 feet beneath the road, they noted. That and the nearness of the building to the road raises liability issues for the town, Town Chairman Lance Leider said.

“We don’t even know if our insurance covers us,” Leider said.

Town Clerk Bob Eichner agreed.

“With work progressing, liability becomes an issue,” he said.

“We need to seek legal counsel and find out where we’re at,” Leider said.

Another liability issue is the large amount of grain and fertilizer dust inside the building.

Waubeka Fire Chief Jason Caswell said the dust poses an explosive hazard and needs to be treated as hazardous waste.

“The building is unsafe. We wouldn’t put anyone in there if it was on fire,” he said.

Sheridan Sr. said he and his son are looking at removing some of the equipment in the mill and have contacted a recycler and a company that brokers the sale of used machinery. 

Ozaukee County has prohibited the Sheridans from doing any “structural work,” including patching a hole in the west wall of the mill that would be created by the demolition, patching the roof and shoring up rotted beams. 

Other issues include exterior siding facing Mill Street that contains asbestos and severe cracking in the foundation.

In his email to the town, Sheridan Sr. asked town officials to ask the county whether doing needed structural work, and thus allowing demolition, “would be an advantage to the town.”

Sheridan Sr. said he wants to create an “artificial whitewater rapids” for canoes and kayaks at the mill, which sits on the south bank of the Milwaukee River next to the former button factory, which he owns.

Sheridan Sr. also said he believes the site holds potential as a “small hotel” and restaurant, with a patio overlooking the river.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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