Verso mill maintenance will require 500 visiting workers

IRON MOUNTAIN — Local officials are preparing for the arrival late next week of 500 workers from across the country for essential maintenance work at the Verso pulp and paper mill in Quinnesec, Iron Mountain City Council was told Monday.

The mill plans a temporary shutdown beginning May 15 and lasting two weeks, City Manager Jordan Stanchina said. The required boiler maintenance is a concern during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it already had been delayed and the mill is under pressure both from safety regulators and insurers to see it’s accomplished, he said.

“You don’t want the boiler blowing up, either,” council member Bill Revord remarked during a council meeting conducted via teleconference.

City, county, health and business leaders are having discussions to coordinate accommodations for the contractors. “We’re looking at food and lodging and anything that can be done differently,” Stanchina said.

Iron Mountain is home to most of the area’s hotel rooms, he noted.

Verso officials have indicated workers will be vetted before arrival and there will be regular health checks at the work site, Stanchina said.

The shutdown of the recovery boiler and pulp mill periodically are scheduled to help improve safety, product quality and environmental performance. Many of the workers are trade union members from various regions.

“Hopefully, they’ll be mindful of our community and respect our wishes,” Mayor Dale Alessandrini said. “We’re doing good (in limiting coronavirus infections) and I hope we can keep it that way.”

Stanchina said local discussions on the project are in the early stages, with another meeting scheduled today.

Information from a session this morning suggests the majority of the contractors are from the Upper Peninsula, Stanchina told The Daily News.


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