Workers, Retirees Express Concern

NEW MARTINSVILLE – Her husband being a 32-year Ormet employee, Judy Mason said her family has been through many strikes and layoffs over the years.

Still, she did not realize Friday could be his last day, as the aluminum producer is ceasing operations due to high American Electric Power bills.

“He was working today when they were called into a meeting. That’s when they were told the plant would be shutting down,” Mason said Friday as she watched the football game between Magnolia High School and Monroe Central High School. “This is just terrible for everyone. Emotions are running high.”

Prior to the game, a public address announcer said a short prayer for those affected by the Ormet situation. Though the aluminum producer sits on the Buckeye State side of the Ohio River, Mason emphasized how much the company means to the entire region.

“I really do not hold Ormet responsible for this,” Mason said. “There really is no one person or one thing to blame. You just have a very hard situation to deal with.”

Though she does not place all the blame with AEP, Mason said the electricity provider could be part of the problem. The electricity company earned $338 million from April through June.

“It is difficult when you see how much AEP is making at the same time others are suffering,” she said.

Mason said her mother-in-law is also concerned because she currently receives some additional health care from Ormet due to her husband’s years of employment there.

“This is going to impact everyone. From the schools, to the churches to the counties, to the stores – everything is going to take a hit from this,” she said.

Also attending the game Friday were Magnolia fans Joe LeMasters and Ron Neely, both of whom are also Ormet retirees.

“This is just terrible. It is all about that almighty dollar,” said Neely, who spent 42 years at Ormet.

“It stinks,” added LeMasters, a 45-year Ormet worker. “We are worried about our pensions, but we are really worried about the guys who were working there now.”

“I blame AEP,” LeMasters added.

Wetzel County Commissioner Bob Gorby retired from Ormet with 33 years of service. He hoped an agreement would be reached, but was not that surprised to learn of the planned shutdown.

“I thought they would get what they needed, but I guess they didn’t,” he said. “This is going to have a terrible trickle-down effect for this whole area.”

Meanwhile, Mason said her husband is a welder, so she said he remains confident he will find work with or without Ormet.

“He is optimistic that there will be a resolution,” she added.

The plant itself appeared to be nearly abandoned Friday evening, as there seemed to be no one at the security gate. However, Gorby said the manner in which Ormet is shuttering would allow the plant to re-fire fairly easily if someone were to step forward to run it.

“All you can do is hope now,” he said.