Mill needs upkeep

Plant shows signs of not being used

OMAK — With so much work needed to get the Colville Indian Plywood and Veneer back in operational condition, Wood Resources executives are in a hurry to finalize the details needed to begin hiring.

However, those last details are no minor task, said Richard Yarbrough, chairman of the company that has leased the mill from the Colville Confederated Tribes.

Yarbrough said worker’s compensation, property insurance, fire insurance, medical benefits programs and Labors and Industries insurance all need to be in place before hiring the first employees.

“When you buy an operating mill, all of that is there,” Yarbrough said.

While Wood Resources owns three other lumber mills, this situation is different.

In Wood Resources’ past business ventures, it has always taken over an operational mill. This will be the first time it has restarted a mill that has been shut down for several years.

The Colville Indian Plywood and Veneer plant has been shut down since Jan. 16, 2009.

Yarbrough said there are indications the tribe closed the mill down believing it would be restarted a short time later.

“It wasn’t abandoned,” he said. “They just said we’ll be back in a month or two.”

Yarbrough said there are indications that the tribe never intended the mill to be down this long.

The power has been on the entire time to keep the electronics warm and the motors have been rotated regularly to prevent them from seizing, and the boiler — the most critical piece, according to Yarbrough — was properly dried out so it wouldn’t rust in the interim.

Although the mill wasn’t completely abandoned, there’s a great deal of work to be done on the “green end,” a giant lathe that peels logs and turns them into veneer.

The lathe itself is powered by 300-horsepower engines and large hydraulic pressure units, Yarbrough said.

Those motors and hydraulic units will need to be torn apart and rebuilt to replace every valve, seal, bearing and bushing.

“It’s not like we have to go buy a million dollars’ worth of parts,” he said. “We just have to tear it all apart.”

Aside from the mechanical upkeep, the mill will need a massive spring cleaning effort of its own. Although the electricity is running, the lights have not been turned on yet, and a great deal of clutter can be seen throughout the interior and exterior of the mill.

Tools and equipment have been strewn about and one section of the building is a wasteland of old motors, ranging in sizes.

“Old mills tend to become bone yards,” Yarbrough said. “Meaning, they don’t throw anything away. It’s like a junk yard.”

Yarbrough said it will take several months to go through all the motors and determine what has value and what will be scrapped.

Plus, the mill will need to be cleaned of more than four years of dust, dirt and spider webs, with new light bulbs and safety signs installed and a fresh coat of paint.

Despite the sheer quantity of cleaning and maintenance required, Yarbrough said he still believes the mill is on track with its original projections.

He hopes to have crews begin the maintenance by the end of May, with the first logs scheduled to be peeled in mid-August.

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