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Soundview Putney, Vermont paper mill to close, putting 125 people out of work

PUTNEY, Vermont (From news reports) -- Soundview Vermont Holdings LLC, a division of Marcal Paper but known by its historical and well known name of Putney Paper, is closing.

The paper mill, located in downtown Putney, and the converting plant, employs 124 people.

Stephen Prentiss, labor and employment counsel for Marcal, which is based in New Jersey, confirmed Tuesday morning that the Vermont mill would be closing.

In a later press release issued on behalf of the company, Soundview Vermont President Rob Baron said the papermaking operation of the mill would cease operation immediately but that the paper converting division would remain open until the end of the 2024 first fiscal quarter, or the end of March.

"Despite our best efforts to sustain operations at this historic paper mill, we had no choice but to shut down operations," said Baron, the president and chief executive officer of Soundview Vermont, in a prepared statement.

"The high cost of energy in the region has made it unaffordable to keep our doors open. Our top priority moving forward will be supporting our incredible employees and their families throughout this difficult transition."

Soundview Vermont acquired Putney Paper Mill in 2012. Over the past decade, the company said it had invested tens of millions of dollars to strengthen the mill, but the rising energy costs were "too insurmountable to sustain operations."

"The decision to close the mill comes after careful consideration and a recognition that there was not a viable path forward," Baron's statement said.

The mill's paper machines will shut down immediately, to ensure the safety and well-being of the employees, and the converting operations will continue operations through the end of the first quarter, Baron noted.

"The company will be exploring options for the sites as we prioritize supporting our impacted team members in the transition to their next career step," Baron's statement said.

"Soundview Vermont is committed to providing support and assistance to all employees during this transition period, including severance packages and extended benefits. The human resources team will be focused on job placement opportunities for all interested employees, offering wide-ranging support services including resume writing, interviewing skills workshops, and outreach to local companies," the company's statement said.

Further, they are partnering with Vermont Manufacturing Extension Center (VMEC) to identify technical skills training opportunities for employees.

Rep. Michael Mrowicki, D-Windham 4, said Tuesday he had been told at the Statehouse by the company's lobbyist that the paper mill would be closing this week. High electricity costs and the plant's confined location, making expansion difficult, were cited in its decision.

"This is terrible news for the employees and families of Soundview/Putney Paper Co. I'm working with our state agencies and in touch with our Congresswoman Becca Balint for how we can best support the employees," Mrowicki said.

"We are also concerned that the company is not compliant with the federal WARN Act and Vermont Notice of Potential Layoffs Act, which requires 45-day notice to the state so supports can be put in place," he added.

Putney Paper has been in the news repeatedly in the past several months, including a fire in its ductwork two weeks ago, and a major fuel oil spill in November, when fuel oil leaked into Sackett's Brook and the Connecticut River. There was another significant fire at the plant last spring.

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