Future of Mill After Explosion 30 May 12

The Verso Paper Corp. operation in Sartell may have been brought to its knees with Monday’s explosion and fire, but there was a growing sentiment Tuesday that it isn’t down for the count.

The St. Cloud Times reports that the mill, which has been producing paper for 105 years, was indefinitely idled by Monday’s events that resulted in the death of 50-year-old employee Jon M. Maus of Albany and injuries to several others. But even as hot spots continued to pop up Tuesday, it was apparent the vast majority of the damage was contained to part of the paper warehouse.

Robert Mundy, a senior vice president and chief financial officer for Memphis-based Verso, said he was aware of preliminary reports that the paper-making capacity of the plant’s No. 3 coated paper machine was intact. His company has been unable to verify that, because the building was still considered unsafe, but it sounded encouraging.

“This has been a blow to the operation and it certainly could have been a lot worse,” said Mundy, who has worked for Verso in his current capacity since 2006 and previously was with International Paper — former owner of the Sartell mill. “There is a lot of paper and things stored in there, but we’re fortunate in the way mills are constructed that there was a significant firewall between the machine and the warehouse.”

Mundy said Verso representatives won’t be able to assess the damage until given the all-clear that the building is safe from Sartell Fire Chief Ken Heim, and that could be a couple of days.

Governor Mark Dayton visited the site Tuesday. He said the state of Minnesota will do everything it possibly can to get the plant operating as soon as possible, adding that the jobs are vitaly important to the Sartell area and the state of Minnesota.