Decision on Appleton Coated mill delayed

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COMBINED LOCKS, Wis. (WBAY) - The future of Appleton Coated and it's more than 600 employees remains up in the air. The sale of the Combined Locks paper mill to a liquidation company was supposed to be approved in court on Friday, but without a purchasing agreement in hand, the court delayed that decision until Monday.

Appleton Coated paper mill
Appleton Coated paper mill in Combined Locks (WBAY photo)

The delay gives the union a chance to find a buyer to keep the mill operational.

Losing more than $2 million a month, Appleton Coated entered receivership last month. Then, earlier this week at auction, a buyer's bid was accepted to purchase the facility and the more than 600 mill employees were immediately laid off as part of the plan.

The mill's future under that buyer, Industrial Assets Corporation, remained unknown until Friday's court hearing when Mark Freelander, attorney for Industrial Assets said, "There is no commitment whatsoever on the part of Industrial Assets that they are going to operate Appleton, if they were the approved purchaser."

The plan to liquidate the mill led several entities, like the steelworkers union which represents more than 400 of the mill workers, as well as the county executive and other local leaders, to object to the sale.

Understanding the emotional objections to the sale, the judge said he was sympathetic to those who are being affected, but he only delayed the approval of the process because he hadn't received the purchasing agreement.

"It's difficult all the way around," Judge Greg Gill told a full courtroom, "and the best I can do is to look at the agreement. And if there is a viable alternative that becomes a win-win for everybody, I'll certainly entertain that, but if not, I can't delay this inevitably simply on hopes and dreams."

The delay in a decision gives the union a little bit a breathing room and they are optimistic that they can find a buyer by Monday.

"We are looking at this with rose colored glasses and hoping we can turn this around by Monday afternoon," said Michael Bolton from the Steelworkers Union.

For now, the mill will remain idle and the workers are still laid off.

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