Verso paper mill will not reopen after explosion, fire - My29 WFTC Minneapolis-St. Paul

Verso paper mill to remain closed after explosion, fire

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SARTELL, Minn. (KMSP) -

Officials have decided against repairing and reopening the Verso Paper Mill in Sartell, Minn., saying it is too costly to rebuild after the explosion that ripped through the plant on Memorial Day.

The plant has not resumed operations since the blast, which killed one employee and left a fire that smoldered for days. Verso reported that the flames -- and the water used to extinguish them -- destroyed more than 5,000 tons of finished paper and work-in-process inventory.

Yet, the writing may have been on the wall long before the blast rocked the now-dismantled warehouse, killing one and injuring five others

The company laid off 175 workers in October saying they were simply making less of the glossy, magazine-style paper. Verso officials say the plant had not been competitive for years.

A second round of layoffs followed the fire, when the Maine-based company sent layoff notices to a "clear majority" of the mill's 250 hourly and salaried workers. More than 200 others were laid off when Thursday's announcement was made.

The decision will have a significant impact on the nearby community since the plant was such a crucial part of the local economy.

"My dad supported a family of five girls and a mom and dad for 42 years," said Connie Cossairt. "He was an employee there."

By Thursday night, the bars in Sartell were filled with stories of a mill that celebrated its 100th birthday before the town did.

Gov. Mark Dayton met with representatives from Verso on Thursday, and he said he will work with them to explore other uses for the site.

The town's mayor said he holds out hope that something will take the place of the mill, and though he's heartbroken at the loss, he said it's good that employees won't have to wait for a decision any longer.

"It's hard for us to comprehend what it will be like without it," Mayor Joe Perske admitted. "What will become of it? Who knows. We'll see what we can do."

 

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