March 16, 2010

Boothbay yard lays off 65 employeesNoel Gallagher's headlyiney

NOEL K

— By . GALLAGHER

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Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette: L to R Brian Hockridge a ship fitting supervisor and Jake Stevens a production manager with Washburn & Doughty Associates shipyard look over the damage Monday July 14, 2008

click image to enlarge

Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette: Company officials and insurance company representatives look over the damage at Washburn & Doughty Associates shipyard Monday July 14, 2008.

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Staff Writer

EAST BOOTHBAY — The owners of the Washburn & Doughty Associates boatyard plan to be back in business within months -- even though they notified about 65 workers Monday that they were being temporarily laid off while the company regroups in the wake of a devastating fire.

''We hate to see anyone laid off, and we want to do what we can to get them working again,'' owner Bruce Washburn said Monday, as he stood next to a pickup truck in the boatyard 's parking lot that had half its bumper melted from the heat of Friday's fire.

Behind him, one of two huge charred tugboats listed to one side amid a tangle of blackened metal and timbers.

Earlier Monday, the state Fire Marshal's Office announced that the fire was accidental, caused by sparks from a piece of equipment.

About 35 employees are still working at the company, finishing a tugboat that was not damaged in the blaze, according to Operations Manager Lee Smith.

The company hopes to rehire many of the laid-off workers as it goes forward with demolition work.

''I think we'll be building boats within three months,'' Smith said.

Company officials are already working with the firms whose boats were destroyed to try to meet their contractual obligations, including scheduled delivery dates.

A more immediate concern is temporary work space. Smith said the company is considering an offer from town officials to use ''Shipbuilders Park,'' a small park and public boat launch located next door to Washburn & Doughty.

''We will rebuild,'' Washburn said.

He said the company has insurance, but how much of the estimated $30 million cost of the fire will be covered is still being determined.

Fellow boatyard owner Bruce Doughty also said the company would forge ahead.

''We've never run away from a hard time before,'' he said. ''It's going to come out all right in the end.''

Sparks from a cutting torch started the blaze, the Fire Marshal's Office announced. Employees were working on the larger of two tugboats under construction inside a building when it happened.

The fire destroyed a 50,000-square-foot building. No one was injured. ''That's the only thing that makes it palatable,'' Washburn said.

Gov. John Baldacci plans to hold a news conference today at the boatyard to discuss the fire and its impact.

The company hopes to salvage some parts or sections of the burned tugboats and complete the work on those boats, officials said. Inspectors were more immediately concerned with the boats' stability.

As inspections took place at the main part of the boatyard, a backhoe was in another part of the property, clearing debris at the waterline and sorting burned timbers from huge metal cleats and bollards that could be re-used. In the background, hundreds of brightly painted lobster buoys dotted the nearby harbor, some of them inside a roped-off section of water meant to retain any floating debris from drifting away.

The cleanup alone will take about two months, Smith said. It's too soon to estimate a timeline for rebuilding, he said.

The company primarily makes tugboats, usually about three a year, which take between 10 and 15 months to build depending on their size and complexity, Smith said. They are currently working on their 94th through 97th ''hulls.''

State and company officials met with employees early Monday to discuss the temporary layoffs and to offer assistance through the Department of Labor's Rapid Response Team. The workers generally earn about $15 an hour, according to company officials.

''We encouraged people to apply for unemployment and get that process started,'' said Commissioner Laura Fortman, who was at the meeting. ''To me it sounded like the company is definitely interested in starting back up. They're still very much in the stage of sorting through this crisis. They are still in the assessment phase.''

A special fund to aid workers was started by the Boothbay Region Land Trust. Katie Doughty, who works at the boatyard and is the daughter of owner Bruce Doughty, is on the board of the land trust, President Julie Lamy said.

In addition to general costs, many workers lost personal tools in the fire, she said.

''Everyone wants to know what they can do to help,'' Lamy said.

Staff Writer Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

ngallagher@pressherald.com

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Additional Photos

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Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette: Company officials and insurance company representatives look over the damage at Washburn & Doughty Associates shipyard Monday July 14, 2008.

  


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