Evaluation Still Ongoing to Determine Verso Future

Evaluation Still Ongoing to Determine Verso Future Click to Enlarge Photo: Brad Veenstra

Jun 26, 2012 at 8:44 am

SARTELL, MN (KNSI) – Verso management and Sartell city leaders met Monday to get an update on the company's progress in analyzing the extent of the damage and the viability of re-opening the mill in the wake of the ravaging Memorial Day fire and explosion.

A final decision and course of action about the paper mill is likely still weeks away as Verso officials may not even get the full report until next week, and more information on how much insurance will be available may not be known for even longer.

"They hope to have their rebuild analysis to their corporate officials sometime around the Fourth of July," Sartell city administrator Patty Gartland said. "They're still waiting for and expect it to be several more weeks before they have some indication of what the scope of the insurance coverage is."

Aside from finance possibilities and overall cost, one of the biggest hurdles for getting the plant back online is a technical issue.

"One of their primary challenges is reestablishing power to the production aspect of their operation which is about 90% of what their electric usage is," Gartland said.

But if people are looking for positive signs the mill will return, Gartland says the detailed scope of the analysis and the number of meetings with a wide swath of state leaders point to a genuine effort and desire to get things back on line.

"I continue to feel very optimistic and I think the plant manager just reinforced that," Gartland said. "The scope of detail that is being undertaken to analyze just exactly what it is going to take to get back in production would suggest that there is an absolute, very deliberate effort going on to put them back in operation."

While Verso takes steps to make their decision, the City of Sartell is in a holding pattern when it comes to forming any possible plan to assist with the re-opening of the mill.

"What we are really missing right now, or waiting for is, where are there needs and to what extent are they not being addressed or unable to be addressed by insurance?" Gartland added, "Then we can step in in whatever manner is going to be helpful."

For now all anyone knows for certain is that many of the mill's employees are already out of a job or may be shortly. Pink slips are already on the way to most of the 250 people employed at Verso on May 28th, the day of the explosion.

"They expect that within the next 30 days they will probably be down to a base level of just about 50 employees," Gartland said.

According to Gartland the city is doing everything it can to help those impacted workers. Officials at the city level are even going as far as working directly with Verso human resources to inform residents of their best options to help fill financial gaps and make it through the tough times.

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