May 2, 1996 in Idaho

Sawmill Closed For Repairs Twelve Jobs Lost As Crown Pacific Starts Remodel In Bonners Ferry

By The Spokesman-Review

Crown Pacific closed its Bonners Ferry sawmill Wednesday for a year-long remodel just two weeks after announcing the closure of its Albeni Falls mill.

All but 12 of the employees will be transferred to the nearby Colburn sawmill, where they will be used to start a second shift beginning Monday. There is no firm estimate of total job loss once the new, more efficient Bonners Ferry sawmill is back on line, but it should not be significant, company officials said.

Information on the cost of the overhaul is not available. Engineers only now are beginning to design the new sawmill, said Fletcher Chamberlin, a Crown Pacific spokesman.

The new mill is supposed to open midsummer 1997. The kiln and planer at Bonners Ferry will continue to operate while the modernization is under way.

There are 131 people employed at the Bonners Ferry mill, planer and kiln and 47 people working at the Colburn sawmill. Crown Pacific officials couldn’t estimate how many people work at the Bonners Ferry mill alone.

Many timber companies are retooling mills to handle smaller diameter trees because larger diameter, old growth logs are less and less available. This mill overhaul is designed to make more efficient use of timber Crown Pacific harvests from its 207,000 acres of land, the company said.

“This is not a deliberate conversion to do smaller trees,” Chamberlin said.

High log costs and low finished-lumber prices are pushing the overhaul. Albeni Falls is being closed instead of overhauled because “it’s more cost-effective to do this one,” Chamberlin said.

Crown Pacific feels it has enough trees to continue feeding the Bonners Ferry-Colburn complex and the Coeur d’Alene mill, he said.

The changes at Bonners Ferry and Albeni Falls are not a reflection on the workers but upon outdated equipment, Chamberlin emphasized.

The company says this won’t amount to a repeat of the remodel at its mill in Thompson Falls, Mont., which was started and canceled more than once. That remodel was interrupted after a fire in December that burned a significant portion of the mill.

The remodeling was dropped and Crown Pacific unsuccessfully tried to make the planer and kiln run alone.

Then the company again decided to rebuild the entire operation.

That did not materialize because two weeks ago Crown sold the Thompson Falls mill to Riley Creek Lumber Co., based in Priest River.

The changes leave Crown Pacific with Inland Northwest mills in Coeur d’Alene, Bonners Ferry and Colburn.

When the company acquired DAW Forest Products and W-I Forest Products in 1993, there were six mills operating, including ones in Spokane and Superior, Mont.

The Spokane and Superior mills were closed within months of the leveraged buyout and 200 jobs were lost.

The company continues to run a Western Washington operation that involves no mills, but simply exports large volumes of logs to Asia.

Crown Pacific also has two sawmills, a plywood mill and a remanufacturing plant in Oregon.

, DataTimes

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