FORT FRANCES, Ont., TBNewswatch — Resolute Forest Products said it spent almost $35 million to maintain its Fort Frances mill in a “hot idle” state after it was shut down in 2014.
Despite that, the new owner of the mill says the paper machine and other infrastructure is in a state of serious deterioration.
“We’ve had experts who have toured it. We have had open houses where we’ve had almost 40 people walk through the mill, including former paper mill workers, who can’t believe the shape that it’s in,” said Justus Veldman of Riversedge Developments.
In an interview with Tbnewwatch, Veldman said it would take an investment of “hundreds of millions” of dollars to get the mill and its equipment back in shape.
“Every single wire in the place has condensate in it, meaning it all needs to be done. Every electric motor, every pump, every switchgear, every transformer needs to be either replaced or redone,” he said.
Damaged equipment, Veldman said, includes the papermaking machine which he described as “seized and rusty.”
Fort Frances Mayor June Caul isn’t taking Veldman at his word.
“I guess that’s his opinion. We had people go through who know what they’re looking at, and they weren’t too concerned about the paper machine,” Caul said Monday.
The mayor suggested it would be better for the company and the town to work together to get an engineer to inspect the mill with both parties present.
“When Mr. Veldman says that, I just have to weigh it against what other people have said after seeing it, who actually worked in the mill. This needs to be left to the experts,” Caul said.
The disagreement over the state of the mill’s infrastructure comes on the heels of the town’s effort to seize pieces of heavy equipment before Riversedge can move them off the property for sale.
Last week, the town attempted unsuccessfully to seize equipment parked in the mill yard, saying the company owed more than $400,000 in unpaid taxes.
According to Caul, the town has since provided Riversedge with some additional information, but no settlement has been announced as yet.
Veldman on Monday described the dispute as a misunderstanding which the company is working to resolve with the town.
“I would say on my end that it was a misunderstanding on the due date, and we got it clarified,” he said.
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