January 21, 2002 11:00 pm

By Bill Rautenstrauch

For The Observer

Joseph The Joseph Timber Company mill, situated on Airport Lane near Joseph, will shut down in early February.

Forty-seven employees will be laid off, according to a press release issued jointly by owner Steve Krieger and representatives of Wallowa County Community Solutions Inc., a group of stockholders formed last year with the help of Wallowa Resources Inc.

The employees were told about the pending layoff in a meeting Jan. 16.

The layoff will affect approximately 47 employees of the mill, and local loggers and subcontractors, the press release said.

The closure, forced by commodity market conditions and raw material availability, is not necessary permanent. Mill officials project a reopening in June.

(The layoff) is very disheartening because this is the second year in a row this has happened, Krieger said in the press release.

The layoff is the latest chapter in a story of struggle for Joseph Timber. The mill was closed last year, but a partnership formed with Wallowa County Community Solutions enabled it to resume operations.

Krieger could not be reached for further comment Tuesday.