An explosion and fire at the Verso Paper mill on Monday damaged the landmark mill that has been an anchor employer and taxpayer in the city for a century. City and state officials say they're hoping the company will rebuild and keep jobs in the Mississippi River city near St. Cloud.
Sartell Mayor Joe Perske says that rolls of burning paper in the plant have proven difficult to put out, two days after the blaze started.
"It's so difficult because they're inside, to get the water on them, to put them out. It is contained, and with that, they're working now," he said. "Now, in the daylight hours, they're going to try another operation, which maybe they can get inside the building and start bringing those out and extinguishing them one or two at a time."
Perske says the city wants the plant to rebuild and reopen for normal operations, but he says he doesn't know yet what will happen.
"I think they're hesitant to say what's going on. They have to protect their business interest. However, knowing the people that have been there in the past, and knowing their commitment to this community, I certainly will work very strongly with them as far as keeping them here," he said. "It's just been a way of life here, and we want to continue that."
Gov. Mark Dayton visited the area Tuesday and pledged the state will do "everything it possibly can" to get the mill operating again.
The paper mill is a landmark along the east bank of the Mississippi River in Sartell, a community of about 16,000 people just north of St. Cloud. The mill is a top employer and the city's highest property taxpayer. Its smokestack can be spotted from miles away, and it's been producing paper for a year longer than Sartell has been a city.