Ripples from the closure of Ponderay Newsprint Co. continue to be felt through the community, as the partnership that owns the mill, Ponderay Newsprint Co., files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, bringing to a definitive end the company’s 31-year run. Employees received a letter from the company at a union meeting Thursday, June 25, notifying workers that the plant ceased all production and operations effective June 26 and that health benefits stopped at the end of the month. After that, because of an information request from the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers Union about whether insurance premiums had been paid, another month of health insurance was assured. Some premium payments had been made so employees will have health insurance for July. Greg Pallesen of the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers Union said the union has applied for Trade Adjustment Assistance through the federal Department of Labor. He said if the assistance is approved, workers could get up to two years of financial assistance similar to unemployment insurance compensation while they are retraining for another job. If it is not approved, they fall under regular unemployment insurance, he said. Employees did receive severance packages, as per the union contract, based on the number of years of service. The maximum severance for workers was $22,000. It is unclear what management received in severance pay. The mill’s closure will have an effect on different government entities within Pend Oreille County. The mill is valued at just less than $60 million, Pend Oreille County Assessor Jim McCroskey said, about 3.5 percent of the county’s total assessed valuation of $1.7 billion. McCroskey said Pend Oreille Fire District No. 4 will feel the effect of the mill’s closure, as will the Cusick School District. The mill has no property within the town of Cusick. Other taxing districts will also be affected, such as the Pend Oreille Library District. McCroskey said that 3.5 percent of the county’s value is considerably less than it was 15 years ago when the newsprint mill’s valuation was 25 percent of the county’s valuation. When the mill first opened in 1989, it was nearly half the county’s assessed valuation, he said. PNC paid the first half of their property taxes – $300,282, according to County Treasurer Nicole Dice. Pend Oreille Public Utility District is owed money. PNC didn’t make its end of June power payment, about $1 million, PUD General Manager Colin Willenbrock said. PNC also owes $12-14 million for the power it contracted for through the end of the calendar year, he said. “We’re selling that power, but at a significant loss,” Willenbrock said. The Ponderay Newsprint Co.’s Chapter 7 bankruptcy was filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Washington Friday, June 26. In the filing, PNC says after administration expenses are paid, no funds will be available to unsecured creditors. According to the bankruptcy papers, the value of the mill is $79.04 million. The mill’s real property is valued at $60.62 million and personal property valued at $18.41 million. Ponderay Newsprint Co. declares $57.89 million in liabilities, including $36.75 million to creditors who have claims secured by property and unsecured claims totaling $21.13 million. The 1980s, when the mill was being built and opened, was similar to today. According to The Miner’s special Centennial publication, published to mark the county’s first 100 years, the county’s unemployment rate was high, cuts to government entities were rampant, and extremism in the news, particularly white supremacy. “We’ve been through this before and we’ll get through it again,” Willenbrock said.
You are here: / / Newport Miner 07/01/2020 Ponderay Newsprint Co. Files For Bankruptcy