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Mayor asks for help with coke plant



Published: Fri, February 8, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



WCI says its efforts to help save the coke plant were blocked.

By DON SHILLING

and DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITERS

WARREN -- Mayor Hank Angelo has asked Gov. Bob Taft for help in saving LTV Corp.'s coke plant in Warren, but the governor said there's little he can do.

Taft's comments were similar to statements he made last year, when the state could do nothing to save CSC Ltd., a former steel plant in Warren.

Without a buyer, the coke plant is being shut down.

"We don't have a lot of flexibility with regards to [giving] just plain cash," Taft said. "We're not permitted to help companies with cash flow. We certainly want to do all we can to save the coke plant. We're ready to help if we have a specific request. We're prepared to help if we have someone to operate it, someone who has customers and someone willing to make that commitment."

Angelo said he gave Taft a two-page summary of the plant's situation Thursday. The mayor, who was with the governor during his visit to the Warren area, said not much time is left to save the plant from being shut down.

"We're talking hours, not days," Angelo said Thursday afternoon.

Bill Prejsnar, unit chairman for United Steelworkers of America Local 1375, said this morning that the furnaces were still on, but workers were preparing for a shutdown.

Union involvement: Mike Rubicz, union president, said the union is trying to extend the plant's life until the end of February, but he said LTV is blocking every attempt.

The latest disappointment for the union and its members came Wednesday when discussions between LTV and WCI Steel fell apart.

Tim Roberts, a WCI spokesman, said the two companies were discussing a way to restart the plant for a short period. Roberts said he couldn't discuss details but LTV ended the talks without giving a reason, even though significant progress had been made.

"The coke plant is an outstanding facility, and we genuinely regret that we couldn't succeed in helping to facilitate a purchase of the plant," Roberts said.

He said WCI, which makes steel in a mill adjacent to the coke plant, was trying to find a buyer, not buy the plant itself.

LTV is not commenting on attempts to sell the plant.

LTV could shut down the furnaces of the coke plant at any time because it began doing preliminary work Saturday. After the furnaces are turned off, they would suffer severe damage, which would make it unlikely that the plant would be sold.

The furnaces have been idling even though production was stopped in December.

Deal fell through: LTV said it had reached an agreement to sell the plant to an affiliate of Tonawanda Coke Corp. of New York last month, but Tonawanda pulled out after it said its customer wouldn't commit to buying enough coke.

Rubicz said the union is trying to find a way to keep the plant open until Feb. 28 because that is how long LTV's steel mills are idling. Union officials are hoping that a company that buys LTV's mill in Cleveland will buy the Warren plant or at least commit to buying coke from the plant. Coke is a coal-based product used in the steel-making process.

The plant used to employ about 200 but now has about 50 employees working on shutting it down.

shilling@vindy.com




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