Trone says officials are working to help mill workers: Congressman visits Allegany County, opens district office in city
CUMBERLAND — Rep. David Trone said Friday that meetings are ongoing to try to find solutions to assist those impacted by the closing of the Verso Corp. paper mill in Luke.
It was announced Wednesday that the struggling mill would close its doors for good on June 30 putting nearly 700 on-site employees out of work along with hundreds of ancillary contract workers.
Trone represents Western Maryland in the U.S. Congress.
“We are setting up a call with the (interim Verso) CEO (Leslie T. Lederer) on Monday,” said Trone. “We’ll voice our disappointment. There are things we need to get done.”
Trone was in town Friday making several stops in Allegany County. He attended a ribbon cutting in the afternoon for the opening of his new district office at 217 Glenn Street in Cumberland. Trone is attending the 15th annual Western Maryland Democratic Summit at Rocky Gap Casino Resort on Saturday, where he is a featured speaker.
Trone began his day Friday by speaking to a gathering of students at Frostburg State University, giving a lecture on government and current events.
In the afternoon, he visited downtown Cumberland where he met with local officials and business leaders at City Hall.
Trone was asked about the latest development on the impending paper mill shutdown.
“We’ve been following that closely,” said Trone. “We spoke to the mayor of Luke (Edward Clemons Jr.) two days ago right when it happened. We did a run down on the company (Verso).
“As a CEO (of Total Wine & More) I understand business. The way (the mill closing) was handled was ridiculous. How does a mayor learn about … he finds about it in the news; it’s totally irresponsible and totally bad business.”
Trone said the displaced workers are a primary concern.
“A mill shutdown, how do you bridge those gaps as of June 30?” he said. “Then, the men and women literally (get) 60 days notice, from great jobs and (a mill) that has been there 131 years. Those folks need jobs. We can try to keep the mill open. If that is not possible, it’s how do we find those folks jobs?”
Cumberland Mayor Ray Morriss was at the meeting.
“The workforce retraining is important for the workers and getting some help to them,” said Morris. “It’s a very traumatic event in their lives they need a lot of support and help.”
Local businessman Doug Schwab said an option might be to “see if there is another company that could buy the factory and repurpose it.”
Trone said meetings on the mill closing are ongoing.
“We set up a meeting tomorrow for lunch with Sen. Ben Cardin and Sen. Van Hollen and the three of us will have lunch at Rocky Gap with Mayor Clemons,” said Trone. “Then after lunch, I’m going over to Luke with the mayor. We will visit the town and we asked the union folks if we can visit the mill.
“The more we talk about it the more suggestions we will get and solutions. I love addressing problems; you jump right in. If you don’t, they get worse.”
Trone said Gov. Larry Hogan will be a helpful partner on the issue.
While in Cumberland, Trone also visited the Allegany Arts Council, The Book Center and several other shops before going to the ribbon cutting on his new Cumberland District Office at 217 Glenn Street.
“We are excited about focusing on Western Maryland and being in Allegany County,” said Trone. “The office officially opened today.
“We started our campaign in Garrett County with the primary and worked our way to Allegany County. We are trying to make a statement; we are focused on the Western Maryland counties.
“By having an office in Cumberland in Allegany County, we think we can better take care of the needs … if folks here have issues with the Veterans Administration, or social security issues, opioids and other things, you can’t expect people to get in their car and drive to Hagerstown. It is just not going to happen. If you can’t be with the people and be on site, you really can’t answer their problems.”
Trone said the office will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday and Thursday and by appointment.