Action On Mill Sought By City

A councilman in this Ohio town is calling for action on the future of Warren’s RG Steel mill, fearing that a planned March auction to sell off non-steel producing assets might be a prelude to future liquidation that would render the mill useless.

“I want to see a roundtable. (Elected officials) should all be here just like they were here when they saved the Lordstown (GM) plant. They were all here. The governor was here,” Warren Councilman Al Novak said last week. “Steel made this valley.”

Novak said such a meeting would generate enthusiasm and help brainstorm about ways to save the mill that had employed more than 1,000 workers when it shut down in May with RG Steel’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Now an auction has been scheduled for March 12-15 for the mill and its assets.

An auction listing “excludes any assets used in the steel production process for the hot strip mill.”

The mill has fallen into disrepair. It will likely take about $50 million to repair the blast furnace and make other improvements.

Charles J. Betters, an Aliquippa, Pa., investor, and two commercial partners purchased the mill out of bankruptcy in August for about $17 million with the promise that they would try to save the mill and not scrap it for at least nine months.

In November he and his partners invested nearly $1 million to winterize the mill, protecting it against freezing temperatures that would have damaged it beyond repair.

Betters has maintained, however, that his background is not in steel production and he would need a buyer or a partner to operate the mill.

Novak said he would like to see the local and state enthusiasm that was generated when officials rallied around the possibility of V&M Star’s expansion in Youngstown, and around GM’s Lordstown plant when the chance of a shutdown loomed. Both of those efforts reaped high benefits.

Ohio Rep. Tom Letson, D-Warren, said officials have not turned their backs on the mill.

He noted that talks between JobsOhio, the governor’s economic development arm, and Betters have been ongoing, but that challenges involve dealing with Betters as a “middle man” rather than potential buyer or end user.

United Steelworkers Local 1375 President Darryl Parker said he remains hopeful that a buyer would be located now that the presidential election and the holidays are over, and the fiscal cliff issue has been settled.