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Harrisville Dry Kiln closing; Lewis officials seeking buyer

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HARRISVILLE — The Harrisville Dry Kiln plant is apparently slated for shut-down at the end of this month, but Lewis County officials hope to help find a new buyer before any equipment is removed.

“We’re going to do our very best to integrate ourselves into the equation to find a buyer for the place,” Legislator Philip C. Hathway, R-Harrisville, said at a special legislative session Monday.

The legislator reported that officials from Bestway Enterprises Inc., the Cortland lumber supplier that operates the plant, indicated late last week that the mill, which employs roughly 25 people, is to close July 31.

That employment impact would be “substantial for a little place like Harrisville,” he said.

Mr. Hathway, a member of the legislative Economic Development Committee, said he has spoken with one individual and heard of another who are apparently interested in buying the plant, both of whom would appear to have the expertise and financial resources to make it work.

State Assemblyman Kenneth J. Blankenbush, R-Black River, is working to set up a meeting with Bestway officials, and officials from the county and the Lewis County Industrial Development Agency — which owns the dry kiln property and leases it to Bestway — have been invited to participate, Mr. Hathway said.

“Eric is going to be, at our encouragement, spending a lot of time on this,” he said, referring to county Economic Development Director Eric J. Virkler.

Legislator Charles R. Fanning, R-Copenhagen, also a member of the Economic Development Committee, said that at least some of the mill’s fiscal troubles stem from the expense of powering the kilns with fuel oil.

“We have offered to get grants to change it over to wood-fired dry kilns, but it hasn’t gone anywhere,” he said.

A company also approached Bestway with a compressed natural gas system projected to save $300,000 to $500,000 in annual energy costs, but “nothing went anywhere with that, either,” said Legislator Jack T. Bush, R-Brantingham, also president of the Lewis County IDA board.

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