September 23, 2016 - 11:37 AM
MERRITT - Tolko Industries is shutting down its Merritt lumber mill just nine days before Christmas.
On Dec. 16 the mill, which employs 203 people, will be shut down, according to the Vernon-based company's senior general manager of lumber Troy Connolly.
“This a permanent closure,” Connolly says. Tolko has been operating the mill since 1987.
The closure is due to a significant reduction in the annual allowable cut in the southern interior, he says. The provincial government announced reduced allowable cut numbers near Merritt and Kamloops in the spring. Simply put the available lumber supply for mills is down, Connolly says, it’s not a reflection on the employees or business.
Connolly says Tolko will be working with employees on a case-by-case basis. Some will be offered severance packages while others may stay with the company in different locations.
“We need to work with employs to find out if they are able to (move)... and if we have vacancies that fit their skill set,” he says.
Tolko has three other lumber mills in Southern B.C. and two plywood plants. All other Tolko operations are stable and won’t be affected by the Merritt mill’s closure, Connolly says. One mill is outside of Kelowna while a plywood plant is near Heffley Creek outside of Kamloops.
“Our intent is to maintain operations as they are in our other operations,” he says.
For now Tolko will be holding on to the Merritt property. Decisions haven’t been made on it’s future yet. Connolly says the company wanted to notify the employees early so that they can plan. It will be shut down in December and decisions on the property and equipment inside will follow.
As the mill is inside city limits it will affect taxes collected by the City of Merritt. The company will also be talking to contractors with the mill on how it will affect their partnerships.
“They need to plan their businesses accordingly,” he says. “Clearly the ones based in Merritt are the ones that will be the most impacted."
Suppliers and other impacted businesses are promised more information from Tolko in a couple weeks.
– This story was updated at 3:18 p.m. Dec. 15, 2016 to correct the lead sentence.
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