CFAC owners meet with Columbia Falls residents, city officials
For many Columbia Falls residents, the promise of reopening the aluminum plant north of town sounds like a broken record.
"We would love to get jobs back in the area. I think there are some serious hurdles they'll have to get over before they get the plant started again," said State Rep. Jerry O'Neil.
Glencore, the owners of the Columbia Falls Aluminum Company, sent representatives to talk with city officials, state representatives, and residents at a public meeting Thursday. Glencore wouldn't allow our cameras inside the meeting, but it didn't stop us from learning what the Swiss company has in store for CFAC.
They're waiting for when the right time and price of aluminum and power align. "When we have a time when they can coincide favorably," explained Haley Beaudry, who is consulting for CFAC. "We'll make the decision to restart the plant and keep it running."
"It would be nice if they said 'yeah, next week we're going to start' and we got to call people back," said councilman Mike Shepard. "But in reality there's a lot of things that's outside of all of our control."
Glencore will also have to deal with the Environmental Protection Agency. Agency reps will tour the plant in June as part of an assessment that may declare the area a superfund site. Glencore calls the planned visit a slight "distraction," but no one seems sure what the company will really do.
"I'm sure they're willing to work with the EPA to figure out what they have to do to mitigate or overcome the problem with the contaminants there," continued O'Neil.
"I can assure you we're doing our best to do whatever it takes to get that plant working again," said Beaudry.
And for a skeptical community, it'll take a lot more than just spoken words to convince Columbia Falls that CFAC will ever open its doors again.
"Time will tell whether this is a sincere gesture," said Shepard. "You get my neighbors, I have a whole bunch of them on my street that worked there... it's either fire it up, or clean it up."