PORT ANGELES, Washington (From news reports) -- McKinley Paper Co. has selected a supplier for new equipment at the former Nippon Paper Industries USA mill on Ediz Hook, a company official said.
However, Human Resources Manager Cathy Price, a spokesperson for the Mexican-owned company, said no equipment has been ordered for the mill, which she said employs 25 workers to keep the it maintained while it's not manufacturing.
"We are on hold," Price said.
She said that while December 2018 remains a "target" for starting up the facility, nothing is set in stone.
The name of the supplier was not disclosed.
The next stages include a pre-engineering process to convert the mill.Contracts will be signed, parts ordered and new equipment installed, Price said.
The mill has two paper machines, but just one was churning out product around the time that McKinley bought Nippon for $20.6 million in a sale that was finalized March 31.
The Japanese-owned company previously produced newsprint and directory paper.
Price said that McKinley will continue operating one of the machines, but had not yet decided if it will operate the other, as well.
Nippon had employed more than 150 workers before slowly laying off employees and finally ceasing production by the time McKinley, owned by Mexican paper-makerBio-PAPPEL, purchased the facility.
Those still working there as of Tuesday included 20 workers, 14 of whom are members of Western Pulp and Paper Workers Local 153, Price said.
McKinley, which also operates a facility in Pruitt, N.M., inherited Nippon's contract with the union, a connection that will continue when the plant starts up again, Price said.
"The people that we hire, whether they are former employees or not, will be union represented because the labor contract is a legal document," she said."So that part has not and will not change."
Interim Port Angeles Finance Director Tess Agesson said Tuesday the continued mill shutdown will cost the city an estimated $440,000 in electrical utility tax revenues in 2018 the city had expected to realize if the plant were full-bore up and running.
She said the shortfall will be covered by $373,500 in budget savings and $66,500 in reserves.
With the mill shut down, the state Department of Ecology issued a revised permit Oct. 27 allowing McKinley to reduce the monitoring regimen for treated wastewater that flows into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, company Environmental Manager Paul Perlwitz said.
The mill's wastewater treatment plant processes rainwater as well as water discharged from the mill's cooling operations.
"What our focus is on is to preserve the assets and maintain them," Perlwitz said.
"Foremost is fire protection and keeping the roofs intact to keep the building dry, maintaining the electrical systems and continuing to deal with local agencies on inspections and things like that," he said.
"There is plenty of work to do for the small crew that's here now."
Perlwitz said employees staffing the plant are looking toward the future, when the workforce builds up again.
"Those details we want to get right, to train people to get the best quality we can," he said.
"From the outside it does not look like a big change, but from the inside, when you are doing it on a 24-hour basis, it will get attention to detail and [mean] learning new techniques, but it can all be done.
"We are very hopeful."
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