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September 30, 2015

Old Town pulp mill to close by end of year

The Wisconsin company that bought the Old Town Fuel and Fiber pulp mill less than a year ago during bankruptcy proceedings announced Tuesday it will close the mill by year-end.

The mill owner, Expera Specialty Solutions in Kaukauna, Wis., blamed the closure on the declining value of the Canadian dollar, a drop in pulp prices due to a significant increase in pulp capacity in the marketplace and wood costs in Maine that haven’t fallen with the decline in demand, according to a statement from the company’s President and CEO Russ Wanke.

“The combination of these forces does not allow sustainable operations even with a dedicated and talented team of employees,” Wanke said in the statement.

The mill’s 195 workers will be paid through the end of the year, the Bangor Daily News reported Tuesday.

The company spokeswoman told the BDN that Expera hopes to sell the mill, which provides pulp for the company’s four mills in Wisconsin. Expera is working with the Maine Department of Labor to assist the affected workers, the company said.

The United Steelworkers Union’s international representative for Maine told the BDN that the union helped find Expera last year and is now looking for its replacement.

The news came less than a day after another mill 30 miles north, Lincoln Paper and Tissue LLC, announced it had filed for bankruptcy and would be sold at auction. A co-owner of the Lincoln mill, with about 179 workers, said he didn't know whether a potential buyer would continue to operate or scrap the mill.

The Maine Pulp & Paper Association issued a statement Tuesday saying that the two announcements should serve as a wake-up call to lawmakers to work with the industry on important issues, including energy, transportation, affordable and available wood fiber and fair trade practices.

Expera acquired the Old Town mill’s assets for $10.5 million in December 2014 during bankruptcy proceedings in Bangor. After the sale, the company rehired the mill’s 180 workers who were laid off when the mill had closed in mid-August of that year.

Read more:

SEC accuses ex-Old Town mill owner of fraud

Ch. 7 bankruptcy sought for Old Town mill

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