CUMBERLAND — Allegany County officials have opened a dedicated website and arranged a job fair for May 14 in an ongoing effort to address the myriad of issues surrounding the impending closure of the Verso Corp. paper mill.
County officials said the May 14 job fair will be held at the Bruce Outreach Center in Westernport from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Additional information on the job fair and the latest development with the Verso mill closure can be found online at WorkforceAllegany.com, according to officials.
Brandon Butler, Allegany County administrator, met with elected officials from across the state on Saturday and Luke Mayor Ed Clemons Jr. to discuss the mill closure that is planned for June 30. The meeting was held at Rocky Gap Casino Resort. Present for the gathering were Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and Rep. David Trone. The officials were in town for the Western Maryland Democratic Summit being held at the resort.
"I got to spend some time with the senators and Representative Trone and Mayor Clemons and we are able catch up on the situation," said Butler. "It's an ongoing conversation. One of immediate needs ... for not only Luke and the town of Piedmont (W.Va.) and possibly some of Westernport, I believe ... is all three towns are dependent on the mill for their water and sewer."
Officials said engineers will study the options for continuing water and sewer service to the impacted communities.
"It underscores the importance of partnering together with all of our state, federal and local agencies so we are all on the same page," said Butler. "The situation impacts many people. In addition to the employees and their families you look at the impact and how it relates to the ancillary jobs and the industries that are depending on the function of the mill."
Butler said the job fair, to be held at the former Bruce High School, 398 Philos Ave., will be comprehensive.
"We'll have the top employers from West Virginia and Maryland there," said Butler. "We'll have people that understand the insurances available and programs that can offer assistance."
The county provided additional details on the job fair in a press release.
"Many employers attending the event have also identified immediate openings for Verso employees," the release said. "Additionally, resume experts will be on hand to to help these workers who need assistance in crafting their resumes. Community organizations and institutions of higher learning and benefit services will also be on hand to provide information regarding insurance, unemployment, investment, social services and training opportunities."
Butler said it is important for impacted employees and related contract workers to visit the dedicated website WorforceAllegany.com which launched Friday.
"We've had 230 people so far who have signed up and registered for the updates," said Butler. "Everything will be posted there and we will continue to provide the latest information."
In a press release, the county stressed the importance of registering on the website.
"Anyone affected by the mill closure, including truck drivers, loggers and other service providers that would also need assistance should register at WorkforceAllegany.com. It is critical for all individuals, whether the person was employed by the Verso Corp. or through any other entity doing business at the Luke mill, register to ensure that appropriate federal funds are allocated to meet area needs. The website will be updated in real time as additional resources, events, and postings are added."
Butler said the problem is immense but the effort to address it has been huge.
"Past the tears and anxiety and uncertainty, it's time for our community to come together. The phone is ringing off the hook. It is a critical time for our community to come and everyone is working hard.
"We are working with our state and federal partners looking at every avenue there is it relates to the future of the mill. We want to make sure that the community and the folks that work in and around the Luke mill, and all of the agencies, are all devoted to this effort and working together."
Follow staff writer Greg Larry on Twitter @GregLarryCTN.