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Reporter's Notebook

August 11, 2012

Reporter's Notebook: Rain shortfall offers lessons in generating power at mill

By Mark Boshnack

In discussing the lack of rainfall this summer, Hanford Mills Museum Meredith Executive Director Liz Callahan said the situation was similar to ones that spurred many changes when the East Meredith site was a working mill.

The mill was first powered with a combination of waterwheel and turbine from 1846 to the mid-1880s. As the mill became a year-round business, the use of steam power changed the way the Hanford Mills operated. Water power was not reliable during the hottest, driest periods of the year, Callahan said. Steam requires less water but more labor. A gas engine was added in the early 20th century that provided electrical power to the mill and East Meredith. The current situation that caused the waterwheel to close operations for a time recently gives visitors a great way to learn about water power and explore alternatives.

I want to thank Daily Star columnist Chuck Pinkey for his hospitality when I interviewed some of those who attended a recent target-shooting contest at his Worcester home. It was a unique opportunity to interview gun enthusiasts about gun control after the tragic Colorado shootings. People on both sides of the issue have to be willing to listen to each other if anything is going change.

The people I spoke with were passionate about the subject and uniform in their opposition to any restrictions. They were also skilled in the use of their weapons. Despite a distrust of the media expressed by some, all were willing to share honest thoughts on the issue. Pinkey was also a good instructor on how to shoot a bolt-action rifle. It was something I had never done before, and with his help I was able to hit a target with all three shots.

Davenport Highway Superintendent Fred Utter saw an opportunity to do something for area residents when he saw several legislators at a recent community event.

At the Schenevus Fireman's convention, he told them about troubles his town was having with flooding and asked what could be done to improve their situation and local roads. The streams and creeks were changing paths as silt and debris clogged the beds during high water times.

State Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, recently went to see some of the problems. Utter said there are too many regulations to clear the waterways of the debris that has accumulated over the years. At several stops, he showed Seward some of the problems.

"If you don't try to fix the problem, it will only get worse," Utter said. "I want to give him a better idea of what's going on."

The trip was timely because after floods that hit the area last year, Seward said, "we are at the stage of trying to mitigate chronic areas to try and avoid these kinds of problems."

Seward pledged to get various government agencies to the area to make sure Davenport gets its share of state and federal help.

"This is the time we want to correct these chronic problems," he said.

Mark Boshnack can be reached at 432-1000 or (800) 721-1000, ext. 218, or at

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