With the wheels already set in motion, Flambeau River Papers is set to resume operations as soon as Monday, July 15, after which it will be taken to auction as a functioning paper mill.
The reopening of the mill has come about following a court hearing on July 1, where Price County Judge Kevin Klein approved an agreement between FRP and CellMark Paper Inc. — which provides 80% of the mill's revenue — as well as a request for the mill to pursue financing in the amount of $2 million.
The agreement approved by the court on Monday allows CellMark to keep the $1 million it suspended in June (which resulted in the mill's abrupt closure), but requires CellMark to continue purchasing paper from the mill for 60 days, and make efforts to continue doing so after the 60 days elapse. It also requires CellMark to make efforts to continue purchasing wetlap, a product produced by the mill.
The second motion approved by the court will allow FRP to receive $2 million in new financing from existing customers DuPont and CellMark.
According to the court-appointed trustee of Flambeau River Papers, Rebecca DeMarb, the agreement and financing are crucial to allow the mill to reemploy their workforce, and to pay the 68 employees who were laid off and will not be returned to work. The employees who were terminated will be paid all they are allowed under the law within two or three weeks after the loan is closed, according to DeMarb.
Part of the $2 million will also be put toward paying post receivership vendors, including a trucking company who DeMarb said has been unable to pay their own employees until they receive payments from FRP.
The main aim of both the agreement and the financing is to allow the mill to resume operations, which will make it more desirable to potential buyers.
DeMarb told the court she intended to take the mill to auction within six weeks of reopening, although she said it
could take some time to close that sale.
Support for the agreement and financing was voiced by the legal representatives of CellMark, DuPont, and the Steelworkers Union. No objections were received by the court. Representatives from Johnson Timber Corporation had a presence in the court via telephone, and voiced no objection to any of the court proceedings.
In his ruling, Judge Klein said that — as no objections were received — the court found it in the best interests of the mill's employees and the community that the mill be reopened and sold at the maximum price.
"Certainly the idea of keeping the mill open and running into the future is the best for all of the possible scenarios," Klein said. "It is important to note that creditors that could have voiced objections .... have not objected."
"The court is satisfied that there is a good cause for what is proposed and it does not run contrary to the statutes," Klein concluded.
The court's decision was welcome news to Park Falls Mayor Michael Bablick, who attended the court hearing.
"The city will continue to be in communication with all parties involved to make sure the buyer is in the best interests of the community and will bring the maximum amount of employees back to work," Bablick told the Review.
On Monday, July 8, DeMarb told the Review in an email that the mill workforce will return to approximately 125 employees, including the 26 employees that have continued working at the mill during the period of closure.
The process to reopen the mill will start on Friday.
A Phillips woman has been sentenced to five years in state prison, followed by four years of extended supervision, for dealing illegal drugs, maintaining a drug trafficking residence, and felony bail jumping.
Cathy D. Ferrell, 57, was found guilty of six felonies, and received her sentence in Price County court on June 24.
According to information provided by the Phillips Police Department, between March 2016 and January 2018, Ferrell distributed seven Oxycontin pills, five grams of marijuana, 4.60 grams of methamphetamine, and a further four grams of methamphetamine were discovered during a search of Ferrell's former residence at 225 Forest Avenue in Phillips.
Ferrell was initially referred to the district attorney for 31 felonies, the majority of which were dismissed but read into the record and considered by the court when sentencing was decided.
For being a party to manufacturing and/or delivering THC, in an amount less than or equal to 200 grams, Ferrell was sentenced to one year in state prison, followed by one year of extended supervision.
For manufacturing and/or delivering Schedule I, II narcotics, Ferrell was sentenced to five years confinement in state prison, followed by four years of extended supervision.
For manufacturing and/or delivering amphetamine in an amount less than or equal to three grams, Ferrell was sentenced to four years in state prison, followed by three years of extended supervision.
For maintaining a drug trafficking place, Ferrell was sentenced to one year in prison, followed by one year of extended supervision.
For felony bail jumping, Ferrell was sentenced to two years in prison, followed by one year of extended supervision.
In order to meet the terms of the extended supervision, Ferrell would need to maintain full-time employment, maintain absolute sobriety, participate in and successfully complete any assessment, treatment, or counseling recommended by the supervising agent, undergo a psychological evaluation and follow through with treatment recommendations and/or medications, and cover all court ordered fees.
At the July 8 Park Falls City Council meeting, interim city administrator Steve Kubacki, whose temporary work will conclude soon, said there have been eight potential candidates for the newly created permanent city administrator/clerk position. He said that there would be interviews and meet-and-greets set up for the semi-finalists between July 13 through July 22 with the final selection made in time to finalize the budget.
"I think you've been given a very interesting list of candidates," he said.
Kubacki said the council has to make a decision because he is going to retire again.
He reported he has been working hard on studying the possibility of a TIF#4; presenting the 2018 audit for discussion; performance budgeting for 2020; job description updates and a memorandum of understanding with the Chequamegon School District to share the costs of a groundskeeper.
He reported also being involved with talks with the Department of Natural Resources regarding acquiring land for a potential business park.
Mayor Michael Bablick said the potential park would mean the city would purchase land from the DNR.
"We only have three acres left for development in our current park," he said.
The 120 acres in question has good access and 80 usable acres with all of the necessary utilities.
"The Town of Lake is in support of the purchase of that land," Bablick said.
Requests for permits for the Flambeau Rama including the helicopter landings on the football field by the Chamber of Commerce and a temporary liquor license for the Knights of Columbus hosting a "World's Smallest Bar" as it had in the past were all approved. Also approved were temporary liquor licenses for the American Legion Post 182 for the softball tournament and the Park
Falls Fire Department pavilion.
Bablick announced the appointments of the 2019 Fire Department Officers including Chief Larry Reas, Assistant Chief Phil Bochler, Captain Ken Zierer, Captain Bill Hoffman and Lieutenants: Chris Hoffman, Grant Tesnow, Jim Koller, Andy Bushman.
In other appointments, Michael Mader was appointed to serve on the Plan Commission.
Bablick added that there was only one chicken coop renewal permit requested and that it was said that Inspector Phil Bochler reported it was in excellent condition.
The request from the Public Works Department for a new SCADA system (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) to be paid for through the department's water and sewer fund was also approved. The existing system is having significant problems and Public Works Director Scott Hilgart met with Bablick and interim city administrator Steve Kubacki and the city's auditor and it was decided that it was a necessary purchase as the existing system continues to have breakdowns and that there is currently no service available to repair the units that monitor the sensors, valves, wells and pumps. The tentative costs of purchase and installation was estimated to be around $170,000 to $200,000. The work will be done by Altronex Control Systems.
Another approval came for improvements at the city's transfer site.
"It is badly in need of updating, it is unsanitary and we are charging our refuse service to use the building and it really is in terrible shape," Bablick said.
It is believed the work could be done for the substantial improvements would run around $20,000.
Bablick commended a summer intern from the Chequamegon High School who came to the city highly recommended by his teacher.
He noted that Jason Short wants to be an accountant and is interested in budgeting and so he has spent time working at city hall this summer crafting graphs to better show the council how the budget numbers come together.
"He has been doing a fantastic job," Bablick said. "I have more for him to do through the rest of the summer, but I wanted to recognize his hard work. I think his work will show how the trends are going and will help us in our budget discussions."
The council heard comments from former mayor Dan Leitl who took exception to their decision to use Forward Bank for the city's transactions.
Bablick explained that the other bids that came in had offered a less attractive rate than Forward Bank at 3%, and said the city should leave things as they are and reject the other bids.
Leitl objected, saying that Bablick had delayed awarding the bids until the Forward Bank had taken over for First National. After discussion became heated, Leitl was declared out of order and left the meeting.