A legal agreement to keep the plant idling was being worked on today.
By DON SHILLING
VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR
WARREN -- A group of local companies are paying to keep the furnaces warm at LTV Corp.'s coke plant in Warren, raising hopes that production will be restarted by a new owner.
The companies, which used to provide goods or services to the plant, stepped in Saturday, just after the furnaces were shut down, said Mark Tomasch, an LTV spokesman.
"The only thing that keeps this going is cash," he said.
Saying it is out of customers and nearly out of money, LTV shut down production at its coke plants and steel mills in December but kept them idling. LTV ended the idling for the Warren plant Friday, with the furnaces in the coke ovens going totally off Saturday.
Tomasch said he couldn't speculate on why the local companies want to keep the mill idling.
What union wants: Union officials, however, have been hoping that the mill can be idled until the end of the month. That way, the plant could be packaged with a steel mill in Cleveland that is idling until Feb. 28. Union officials think a buyer of the steel mill might want coke from the Warren plant.
Tomasch said LTV and the group of vendors are working today on a legal agreement. He said he couldn't say how long the idling will last, but called it short-term.
Tomasch didn't identify the companies. Tim Roberts, a spokesman for WCI Steel in Warren, said WCI was not involved. WCI had been involved with efforts last week in trying to find a buyer for the plant.
Crew called in: About 10 hours after the gas keeping the ovens warm was shut down, a crew of 18 workers was called in and did an outstanding job of getting the gas back on before the furnaces cooled off to much, Tomasch said. If the bricks in the ovens cool too much, they would crumble and make the ovens inoperable.
Mike Rubicz, president of United Steelworkers of America Local 1375, said he was glad the furnaces were idling again but didn't want to comment about the plant's future until he has more details.
"I don't want to get anyone's hopes up," he said.
Coke is a coal-based fuel that is used in the steel-making process. Before the Warren plant was idled in December, it produced coke for LTV's Cleveland mills. The Warren plant used to employ about 200.