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Joyce Endee

Some hope and lots of fear about mill closure

October 06, 2010
BERLIN — The impact of the mill closing has people worried and scared, but there is also hope.

"We're going to bump up and down for a while, but I think we're going to see a resurgence," Morin Shoe Store owner Dick Morin said.

The region has seen layoffs and closures before, he said, and every time it is hard, but North Country residents survive.

"We have to survive the winter. I'm afraid the winter will be difficult on all of us," Councilor Lucie Remillard said.

Construction at the Laidlaw plant will hopefully soak up some of the workforce let go by the mill, she said.

But she also knows people are leaving.

"I've already had people call me and say I don't believe we'll be able to keep going with my husband out of work, we're willing to lower our price to get our house moved," she said.

But others, long associated with the mill, plan to remain.

"There used to be about 45 or 50 people that lived here that worked in the mill," said Clarence Thibeau, 76, who lives in Cascade Flats. "Now there's only about three or four."

He's watched the industry decline since he retired from the mill in 1980.

"I worked there 35 years. I was a supervisor, towel division. It's a sad thing, that's all I can say."

Others on Main Street agree.

"I feel like we take one step forward and two steps back, and I think that Berlin is tired of this dance," Liz Ruediger, owner of Savoir Flare, said.

Main Street merchants have to stick together through the tough times, she said, to make sure the loss of 237 jobs in the region doesn't squelch the successes they've had.

Gorham selectman Paul Robitaille said he feels like that's exactly what always happens.

"It seems like everything we try, everything we work together for, everything we break our hearts trying to put together seems to come apart."

He understands just what the workers are feeling, he said, because he went through the same experience.

"I went out in 2000. I spent 10 years working in the Cascade plant. I know it like the back of my hand. I certainly am reliving that nightmare again."

Some people are less sympathetic.

"You know these guys are disappointed, they've been working right along," said Roger Premo, of Cascade. "I've been out of work for 30 months."

He spent 39 years at the mill, he said, but he was laid off in April 2008, along with 250 others. He's been stringing together work as an electrician, he said, but nothing substantial. He won't mind seeing the mill go, he said.

But that's certainly a minority opinion in the area, where everyone in the community has been pulling whatever strings possible to make a sale succeed.

Unfortunately, for now everyone is bracing for impact.

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