JAY – Come early Monday, the last paper machine at Wausau Paper’s Otis Mill will cease to run. It will be the end of an era for a mill that began operations more than a century ago.

The last shift is Sunday evening, which technically runs to 6 or 7 a.m. Monday, spokesman Perry Grueber said Friday.

He said the company plans to sell the equipment and machinery but won’t sell it to a company that makes competing products.

The company continues to work to find ways to reuse the mill, which will most likely be sold, Grueber said.

State, local and company officials have been trying to find buyers for the mill since the company announced in April it would cease operations by May 31.

Wausau had permanently idled one paper machine on Dec. 14, 2008.

More than 200 workers will have lost their jobs by the time the mill closes, about 90 of them with the mill closure.

The Wisconsin-based company announced the mill closure as part of a series of initiatives to improve financial performance, conserve cash and increase financial flexibility.

The company was able to keep one machine running to the last day due to customer orders, Grueber said. “People have done an outstanding job in the last week of the mill running.”

Most of the workers will be scheduled the first week of June to do cleanup, said Mike Castaneda, president of the United Steelworkers Union Local 4-0011.

Most will be laid off after that first week in June, with maybe a third working the second week to finish the cleanup, he said. After that, there will be a small crew remaining to get rid of existing inventory.

As always, these things are subject to change, Castaneda said. He is the peer-support person for laid-off workers, helping them find job training and other benefits.

The mill closure is driven by the high cost of operating the Jay mill, along with the economic recession and other factors, company officials have said.

Customer orders for the specialty products made at the local mill will be shifted to Wausau mills in Mosinee and Rhinelander in Wisconsin.

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