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Florelle plant in Brownville won’t reopen until early October at earliest; 16 temporarily jobless

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BROWNVILLE — Employees laid off at Florelle Tissue Corp. when it temporarily closed the last week of August because of a power failure won’t be back to work at least until early October, company President Harry Minas said Monday.

The 16 employees, including 13 production workers, at the 1 Bridge St. plant are waiting for a failed power transformer to be repaired, but Mr. Minas said he is unsure how long that will take. Mr. Minas said Aug. 27 that he expected workers to be back on the job in three to four weeks.

The transformer, which will cost about $25,000 to repair, is needed to provide the three-phase power used by papermaking machines to produce napkins, bathroom tissue and paper towels. The plant’s power switchgear, which also failed, is being rebuilt by a company based in Houston, Mr. Minas said. Those repairs, combined with the price of shopping, also will cost about $25,000. Mr. Minas had anticipated the repairs would cost $60,000 total.

“At the earliest, we’re probably looking at the end of September to get the power back on here,” he said. “If all goes right, we’ll have everyone back to work in early October.”

A Syracuse-based contractor is seeking to buy used equipment to repair the power transformer, Mr. Minas said.

“We found two units in Chicago that might work, and they’re now being tested,” he said.

Meanwhile, National Grid is replacing the 50-year-old main power line to the plant, Mr. Minas said. That line travels about 300 feet from an electric pole off Bridge Street to feed into the plant’s power system. The utility had planned to replace the old power line for some time, he said, but elected to do the repairs this month.

“It’s good timing, because they’re doing the work while we’re closed,” he said.

Florelle also is seeking to solve a financial dilemma with Chase Bank, but won’t be able to do so until the plant is operating again, Mr. Minas said. The company is trying to prevent foreclosure action announced in May by the bank, which is seeking repayment of about $630,000 in loans made to the paper company starting in 2011. If a forbearance plan isn’t approved to delay foreclosure action, Florelle would seek to refinance loans with another financial institution, he said.

Florelle also received financing from public agencies to retrofit the 94,000-square-foot plant, previously known as Brownville Specialty Paper Products Inc. The Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency issued loans of $250,000 and $300,000 to Florelle, which started production in May 2012 at the 94,000-square-foot plant. Other public agencies that issued loans were the Development Authority of the North Country, $250,000; North Country Alliance, $125,000, and Adirondack Economic Development Corp., $200,000. The project also received a $250,000 grant from Empire State Development Corp.

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