Harbor Paper about $650,000 in debt to PUD

Nearly six months after closure, the inoperative Harbor Paper owes the Grays Harbor PUD $646,858 in unpaid bills. Officials at the utility say they won’t allow the company to rack up as much debt as previous mill owner Grays Harbor Paper LP.

When Grays Harbor Paper closed its doors in 2012, the company owed the PUD $876,000 in back power bills. But PUD General Manager Dave Ward said that won’t happen again, as the utility has worked out a payment plan for Harbor Paper, and so far the company is sticking to it.

“We’re not a lending institution and we have to be accountable to our other rate payers,” Ward said. “We have to treat them like any other customers, and they seem to be OK with that.”

Of the $646,858 balance, $581,404 is in past-due bills, according to PUD billing records. The past-due balance was created in January and February when the mill was still operating at full-force and using about $250,000 of power each month. Now that the mill’s not producing paper, bills are closer to $60,000 each month.

Ward said the payment plan mandates that Harbor Paper pay its monthly bill and a small portion of the debt each month. If and when the mill resumes operation, the company must pay back the full balance.

“They’re slowly taking money off of what they owe us,” Ward said.

Lisa Tener, a spokeswoman for Elliott Rust Holdings, the company that owns Harbor Paper, declined comment to The Daily World regarding the company’s PUD debts. Repeated calls to the Harbor Paper accounting office and President Joe Scolari went unanswered and were met with a message that the voice mailboxes were full.

Although Ward and other officials on the Harbor are still hoping Harbor Paper will resume operations, no one seems to know what a mill restart will look like or when it might happen.

Tener said the company hasn’t given up, and officials continue to look for “strategic solutions.”

Tim Gibbs, CEO of Greater Grays Harbor Inc., said he’s been working with the company since the closure — but he didn’t comment on what specifically the company hopes to do.

“(Harbor Paper) hasn’t been silent anywhere along the way,” Gibbs said. “Sometimes confidentiality agreements prevent them from making the process known to the public.”

“I don’t have a magic wand, I don’t have a crystal ball, but I can tell you that they’re making a good-faith effort,” he added.