Butte Creek Mill reconstruction faces obstacles

EAGLE POINT, Ore – Organizers looking to finish rebuilding the Butte Creek Mill, are hoping their efforts won’t go up in smoke as the project now faces a lawsuit. It’s nearly 75 percent restored.

The Butte Creek Mill in Eagle Point went up in flames on Christmas Day back in 2015. Now, the foundation in charge of rebuilding efforts is facing a lawsuit, and even community criticism, as they work to restore the historic landmark.

The previous construction company working on the project, Hamcon Builders, filed a lawsuit in march claiming they had not been paid for their work, roughly $166,000 worth. According to court documents, the foundation claims no payment needs to be made until the work is complete. The construction is only about 75 percent done.

“We raise money and we build and then we raise money and we build,” Sue Kupillas, chairwoman of foundation board, said.

Kupillas wouldn’t speak to the ongoing litigation, but did explain some of the turn over’s that have taken place within the board.

“We’ve only been a foundation for two years and people expect when they join a board that it’s been around for a long time. No, we have growing pains,” Kupillas said.

One of the biggest changes, when the former-owner of the mill, Bob Russell resigned from the advisory committee.  He says he hasn’t been paid any of the $136,000 owed by the foundation to purchase the site from him. But he admits, that’s on him.

“I said I know times are tough so I will wait up to ten years before you make a first payment,” Russell said.

Those ten years are not up yet.

“I want this project to succeed,” Russell said.

Even without being a part of the building process he hopes his voice will be heard.

“There’s lots of little things that I think are important, and I don’t know whether I’ll have my voice heard on some of those things, but we’ll see. The good news is when I get up every morning and get the newspaper, I walk out from across the street and I see the mill being built and so that’s good,” Kupillas said.

The foundation is aiming for construction to finish by next spring.

Another worry is the historical accuracy of the mill reconstruction. The foundation says minus a few accessibility additions, it will remain as close to the original design as possible.

As far as fundraising, the Foundation has almost hit their goal.

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