By the middle of April, Saratoga residents will know whether the "No Truck" signs installed on Bridge Street are going to be effective or not. Gary Ervin, managing partner at Saratoga Forest Management, expects the mill to be back running at full capacity by then, with trucks again routinely hauling timber in and out of the complex.
The work is moving slower than Ervin had initially predicted. When an early morning fire first disabled the plant on January 20, estimates of how long it would be out of operation ranged from three to five weeks. Ervin had previously said that he expected to be operational by "the first part of April."
As "the cruelest month" approaches, Ervin is pushing his prospective full re-opening date back again, this time to the middle of April.
Among the hold-ups are "scan heads" damaged in the blaze. These devices use lasers to map the contours of logs so that the mill's saw blades can cut them in the most efficient way possible. The specially-manufactured instruments aren't expected to arrive until the first week of April, and then will need to be installed, delaying the full-re-opening of the mill till mid-April.
Normally, the mill has about 140 workers on payroll, with an additional 50 truckers and loggers operating under contract. According to Ervin, only about 50 of these employees are currently on the job, with the rest collecting unemployment insurance. This represents an employment increase from early March, when the mill had between 20 and 25 workers on payroll.