Post-Explosion, Most Sartell Paper Mill Workers Laid Off

The recently damaged mill’s future remains uncertain as owner Verso Paper Corporation is still assessing the costs and the processes that would be required if it were to repair the mill.

Verso Paper Corporation, which owns the Sartell paper mill that was damaged in a May 28 explosion and fire, has given layoff notices to most of the workers at the plant, according to a report in the St. Cloud Times.

“I don’t have an exact number, but a clear majority of the hourly and salaried workers have been laid off,” Verso spokesman Bill Cohen told the newspaper. “We’re working closely with all levels of government—including state, county, and local—to try and make sure those folks get taken care of to the best of our ability.”

Before the layoffs occured, Verso employed 259 at the Sartell mill and was the second-largest employer in the city of about 16,000. Approximately 50 people were working at the plant when the explosion occurred.

The future of the mill, which has been closed since the fire, remains unclear. The mill will likely sit idle into the fall, and Verso is still assessing the costs and the processes that would be required if it opted to repair the mill, Cohen told the St. Cloud Times.

The explosion and subsequent fire, which killed factory worker Jon Maus and injured four others, mainly damaged the mill’s paper warehouse and some electrical systems. The fire also destroyed more than 5,000 tons of finished paper and some unfinished inventory—which together are reportedly valued at about $5 million.

Cohen told Twin Cities Businessearlier this month that in order to serve customers that relied on the Sartell mill, Verso will draw from its other mills or warehouses. The company has three other mills, which are located in Maine and Michigan.

Meanwhile, Minnesota Senate Majority Leader David Senjem told the St. Cloud Times that if there is a special legislative session centered around flood relief for the Duluth area, legislators should also use the opportunity to discuss providing state aid to Verso.

To read the full story in the St. Cloud Times, click here.