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Photo by WJFW Newswatch 12

Legislators discuss second mill bill


Story By Morgan Johnson
Local News Published 11/02/2021 3:24PM, Last Updated 11/02/2021 7:32PM
Rhinelander - Rep. Scott Krug, a Republican who represents Nekoosa, recently introduced a second mill bill.

The second bill comes after Gov. Tony Evers vetoed the first bill in July. This new bill would help reopen former paper mills in Wisconsin Rapids and Park Falls.

The Assembly Committee on Forestry, Parks and Outdoor Recreation held a public hearing on the new bill Tuesday. Krug spoke at the public hearing, saying that this bill is a good step forward.

"I think we've gotten to a point where we've got a bill that is a good compromise between what the veto message had said from the governor's office, what our intentions are in the Legislature, what the industry needs in particular, and how to keep moving forward and all that," said Krug.

The new bill would provide $1 million to the Wisconsin Rapids mill, and loan $15 million to help keep the Park Falls mill running. The bill is also designed to keep these mills running in the long term.

Co-sponsors of the bill include local Northwoods Rep. Rob Swearingen. Swearingen said the Northwoods specifically is hurting.

"When Wisconsin Rapids closed, the logging industry in my neck of the woods and all of the Northwoods went silent," said Swearingen. "And these guys went broke."

Henry Schienebeck, president of the Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association, was also in attendance. Schienebeck stressed the importance of healthy forests to Wisconsin, which can only be accomplished if loggers can do their jobs.

"You cannot have a healthy forest without a healthy forest industry," said Schienebeck. "It just cannot happen."

And keeping these two mills up and running would do that, according to Park Falls Mayor Michael Bablick. Bablick warned that something has to happen soon. He says if the mills sit idle over the winter, they will be useless after that.

Plus, the Park Falls mill is going up for auction in two weeks, which Bablick said could be catastrophic.

"Opening Park Falls' mill will definitely help, but it's been down essentially two, two and a half years and the last three, essentially," said Bablick. "So it makes it a lot easier if the mill is running."

The Assembly Committee on Forestry, Parks and Outdoor Recreation will vote on the new mill bill on Monday, November 8. It will then head to the full Assembly.
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