JAY — When Stephen Gilbert left Quebec at 5:30 a.m. Wednesday, his plans included a 150-mile drive to the Verso paper mill in Jay to deliver a load of lime for L. Breton Transport before he returned to Quebec.
Arriving at about 9 a.m., he started into the mill gate, only to be told to leave and have the gate closed behind him, he said.
The mill had gone into lockdown in response to a hostage situation taking place in the Administration Building of the mill.
Verso workers continued their work on the inside of the mill as state police, county officers and Jay police attempted to negotiate with the hostage-taker throughout the day.
Outside, everything came to a standstill. Police blocked traffic leading up to the mill. Under lockdown, some employees on the outside, as well as pulp and delivery truck drivers, were shut out.
Several employees stepped out for their morning break, said one unidentified employee. He said he walked to his vehicle and then attempted to go back inside, but his supervisor said there was a hostage situation. The employee was told, "'Don't leave but stay back,'" he said at about 10 a.m. He wasn't alone.
About a dozen State Police Tactical Team members sitting in the back of pickup soon rode past the parking lot to the gated mill area. Two more officers with a canine officer walked along the perimeter before going in. As more officers arrived, they took guns from their vehicles and donned uniforms.
Riley Road leading to the mill was lined throughout the day with pulp trucks and other delivery trucks. The drivers, like Gilbert, were waiting to unload. Many turned around and left. Gilbert waited four hours before leaving. He had waited long enough in 30-degree weather.
An overflow of loaded pulp trucks were parked in the Jay Plaza behind McDonald's waiting for Riley Road to reopen.
News of the situation spread quickly through the community. Adam Buotte of Wilton learned of the situation Wednesday morning and was concerned about his father and brother who work at the mill. He was relieved when he learned they were safe inside the mill, he said.