Dayton and Klobuchar to visit Sartell after mill closes

4:41 PM, Aug 3, 2012   |    comments
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SARTELL, Minn. - Governor Mark Dayton and Senator Amy Klobuchar will be in Sartell Friday after Verso Paper announced Thursday afternoon it will not re-open the paper mill.

It was news many expected, but did not want to hear. An explosion on Memorial Day killed plant worker Jon Maus and injured four others forcing the plant to sit idle.

"Verso has made the extremely difficult decision to not reopen the Sartell mill," said Verso Senior Vice President of Manufacturing Lyle Fellows.

The news spread fast in the town where generations have worked at Verso.

"I knew people growing up whose fathers and mothers worked there," said Mary Bentley.

Bentley works at Great River Bowl and Partners Pub which is steps from the mill.

For years, the pub relied on business from mill workers coming in after their shifts.

"They were regulars for us. So since the closing and the layoffs we've seen that population dwindle," said Bentley.

Verso laid off 175 workers last fall.

Company officials said the decision to close was very difficult. The explosion, which caused tens of millions of dollars in damage along with a floundering paper industry made it too difficult to reopen, they said.

"It isn't because of the employees at all. They've worked extremely hard to make the mill successful," said plant manager Matt Arschambeau.

One of nearly 260 workers out of a job is 53-year old David Slimmer.

"I didn't know what to expect. I was hoping for the best," said Slimmer. "(I'm) trying to figure out what to do next, too young to retire."

Sartell Mayor Joe Perske got the devastating news from Verso's President CEO David Patterson this afternoon with Governor Mark Dayton by his side. He commended the company for telling people in person; that said it still hurts.

"The economic impact is tremendous. The truckers, the loggers and the people who give them support, as well. That's a lot of jobs. It's going to hurt the economy here," said Perske.

Company and city officials have formed a task force to figure out what to do with the Verso site.

And for those left in its shadow, that is the unenviable question remains, what to do with a mill that's been a resident in Sartell longer than the town itself.

"It's been such a part of our fiber, generation after generation has worked at this mill and that's not going to happen anymore," said Perske.

(Copyright 2012 by KARE 11. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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