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Questions still unanswered on Appleton Coated's fate

COMBINED LOCKS, Wisc. (From news reports) -- Appleton Coated's employees were left hanging Monday afternoon with no news on their mill's sale to Industrial Assets Corp., a used machine dealer and liquidator based in Los Angeles.

Last Monday, Outagamie County judge Gregory Gill asked lawyers to have the modified purchase agreement complete in five business days.

On the fifth day, which was Monday, the court closed at 4:30 p.m. with nothing filed.

Many questions linger about what's going to be in the final documents.

Will the mill still get a 45-day reprieve in which an estimated 195 workers will be called back to operate some of the paper machines?

Will Industrial Assets use that time to seek a new buyer who could potentially operate the mill going forward?

About 550 of the 620 employees were laid off on Sept. 19 and 20.

If their temporary layoffs become permanent, will workers get any severance pay, insurance extensions or help seeking new jobs after spending years, decades or sometimes entire working lives at the mill?

Late Monday, the deal still appeared to be in lawyers' hands. Gill had not sent through his approval.

After representatives for the Industrial Assets, receiver Michael Polsky and United Steel Workers union verbally agreed on terms of the sale in court last week, Gill instructed the parties to hammer out the fine points.

"We have definitive things in place, but we're not at the finish line," he said as the hearing ended Sept. 25.

Since then, more employees have reportedly gotten layoff notices, leaving a skeleton crew at the mill to perform essential maintenance and service functions.

The state's Department of Workforce Development and the Bay Area Workforce Development Board began working with employees last week.

"The local Rapid Response team provided a worker information session on Sept. 26 for affected employees as part of the state's Dislocated Worker Program," said Tyler Tichenor, DWD spokesman.

He said the program includes pre-layoff workshops on topics like resume writing and interviewing, job search strategies and budgeting. It also provides information about programs, resources and resource fairs.

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