JAY – For some, it was a final goodbye. For others, they knew the day was drawing near when they would walk out the doors of Wausau Paper’s Otis Mill for good.

The last production shift ended early Monday morning, bringing to a close more than 110 years of papermaking at the mill, which in 1896 was heralded as the nation’s largest newsprint supplier.

“Production is done,” Dean Ouellette, president of Local 3 Chapter 247 of the Firemen’s and Oilers Union, said as he walked toward the mill door Monday morning.

Workers will be shipping some paper out from storage, cleaning up the mill and preparing the building and paper machines for storage, in case buyers for the equipment are found.

Ouellette, an electrician, said he and others would stay on for a while to secure the mill.

“People are doing as well as can be expected,” he said. “It was a shock when it happened. Because of the time period, it was kind of like you have to live it for a while. We were watching the date approach but we were still working here.”

Wausau announced in August 2008 that it would shut down one of its paper machines and lay off about 150 workers by the end of that year. In April, the company announced it would permanently close the mill and lay off 96 workers.

People have been getting a lot of information and good service from the CareerCenter in Wilton, Ouellette said. They are putting together resumes and preparing to look for new jobs.

Steam plant superintendent Tim Welch got out of his truck to start his shift Monday. This week is his last one on the job, he said.

“I’m disappointed that we couldn’t make a go of it and we’re shutting down,” he said.

He has no plans at this time but is sending out resumes to look for work.

“I’ve been through this before,” Welch said. He was notified in August he would lose his job in December but has stayed on until the end.

He’ll be overseeing a crew shut down the steam plant, clean up chemicals and drain the lines, he said.

Former mill worker Steve Gould pulled to go in and say goodbye to his former co-workers. He was one of several to do so.

“It’s a devastating thing,” Gould said.

He was in the first group of employees to be laid off after 19 years on the job.

When they let him and the others go, he said, they had to adjust to it but they had hoped the mill and current workers would hold on.

“When I heard the place was shutting down, it was a kick in the stomach,” Gould said. “It’s a great bunch of guys, a very awesome work force. They’re very dedicated, and it’s sad to see them broken up.”

Gould works as a reserve police officer in Livermore Falls and Wilton and is taking classes to go to Central Maine Medical School of Nursing in the fall.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to work in an emergency room or (intensive care unit). This is my opportunity to do it.”


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