Mayor wants mill site to remain productive
EVERETT - The Kimberly-Clark mill will close by April 1, but state legislators and the city are exploring their options on how they can get the mill running again or get another company in there and get people back to work.
Rep. Mike Sells of Everett and a half-dozen other legislators met with Mayor Ray Stephanson Jan. 3 in Everett to discuss exploratory options for the mill. Lawmakers and the city acknowledge cleaning up debris in the nearby East Waterway could hamper getting the waterfront site active again.
“They’re all willing to play a role if a role can be played,” Everett governmental affairs director Pat McClain said last week.
It’s too early to state if any alternatives have been identified, Sells said.
“You keep exploring the alternatives and keep talking with people,” Sells said.
The East Waterway, which Kimberly-Clark uses for shipping wood chips and wood shavings called hog fuel, is a state Department of Ecology cleanup site that could cost millions. Naval Station Everett also uses the East Waterway. Ecology has yet to name which parties are liable for the cleanup.
Kimberly-Clark announced last January it would sell or close the mill by 2012 and spent all of last year trying to find a buyer. Negotiations broke down between Kimberly-Clark and a serious suitor, Atlas Holdings LLC, late in the process largely because of issues surrounding the East Waterway cleanup.
The mill scaled down operations at the end of December. The mill employed 750 people and about 200 people work there now.
Kimberly-Clark still plans to close the mill by the end of March and demolish the site “for future development,” Kimberly-Clark spokesman Bob Brand wrote in an e-mail.
“While we consider the possibility unlikely, if a qualified interested party surfaced we would certainly be willing to engage in additional conversations regarding the future of the mill,” Brand wrote.
The Jan. 3 discussion involved both resurrecting the talks for the mill and the future of the site, McClain said. Legislators are exploring their alternatives. “The next steps are unclear right now,” McClain said.
Sells contacted Ecology and asked Kimberly-Clark to hold on closing the mill. Sells said he hasn’t heard much back yet.
“(The site) is going to be hard to market” because of the cleanup, McClain said.
Brand did not want to speculate how “complex environmental issues” could impact selling the site to other parties.
Using state dollars to help lower the cost of the cleanup was “not a specific point brought up in the conversation,” McClain said. With the dismal state budget, spending money on this to encourage a new buyer would be a hard sell, McClain said.
A team of WorkSource employees are on site assisting laid-off mill workers with finding other jobs. WorkSource is helping about 500 workers.
Also, a group of four Kimberly-Clark employees are helping their former co-workers find assistance through United Way and WorkSource, United Way of Snohomish County spokesman Neil Parekh said.
WorkSource is still in the early phases of layoff assistance, Workforce Development Council Snohomish County spokeswoman Heather Villars said. About 400 workers received orientation about the federal Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which gives unemployment benefits to workers whose plants close because of international trade, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
The Jan. 3 meeting included: Reps. Sells; John McCoy of Tulalip; Kirk Pearson of Monroe and Sens. Steve Hobbs of Lake Stevens; Mary Margaret Haugen of Camano Island and staffers for Nick Harper of Everett.
By MICHAEL WHITNEY
Published Jan. 18, 2012