Company eying finalists for shuttered Isle of Wight plant

– International Paper Co. has narrowed its list of potential reuse proposals for its shuttered paper mill down to two finalists, county officials said. The company may make a decision on the future use by the end of this year.

David Haynes, the company's director of facility closures, met with local officials earlier this month and indicated the company expects to make an announcement by the end of the fourth quarter, said Lisa Perry, the county's economic development director, at Thursday's Board of Supervisors meeting. Over the summer, company officials had indicated they hoped to issue an update in early September.

But Donna Wadsworth, company spokeswoman, took a more cautious stance.

"We are still considering all options at this point … but we anticipate that feasibility studies under way related to site reuse could be completed by the fourth quarter," she said, on Friday. "Right now, a number of proposals are still on the table."

The company has been evaluating 15 proposals since March for possible reuses, most for various types of biomass energy facilities.

One of those proposals came from Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat who was defeated in a bid for his party's gubernatorial nomination last year. In late July, he said his company, Leaf Clean Energy Co., was a final contender for the mill site in southern Isle of Wight. McAuliffe's proposal calls for refitting the paper mill as a wood-burning power plant.

The machinery at the plant is idle, although the equipment is being manually turned as part of the company's equipment maintenance, Wadsworth said. About 30 of 1,100 employees remain employed at the plant for maintenance.

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