May 24, 2001 11:00 pm

By Gary Fletcher

Observer Staff Writer

WALLOWA The sawmill in Wallowa will be reopening after being closed for a year.

Wallowa Forest Products plans to have applications available at the mill office Tuesday. Interviews will be conducted June 4, mill manager John Redfield said.

Approximately 22 people will be hired for the sawmill opening June 11. Another 10 or 11 people will be needed June 18 when the planing mill resumes operations.

Were getting her oiled up and ready to go. Were on the road to running and Im eager to get everybody back working. We have lots of openings, Redfield said.

Seven employees have been working about 1 months to update the sawmill and planer. The project has included computerization and making some equipment faster.

These improved efficiencies should enable the mill to operate with 40 people at the same production level it did with the 55 it employed before its June 1, 2000 closure.

Improved market conditions and a more efficient facility were key factors in the mills reopening, Redfield said. This new leaner operation should help ensure that the jobs will be more secure.

The mill has been actively buying and receiving logs for nearly a month.

Weve got a substantial amount of wood bought up and we are continuing to buy, he said.

When asked how long the mill will be running, Redfield answered, We will continue to operate as long as timber prices and availability and the market value of lumber warrant it.

Im positive about it, Redfield said. I feel like the future looks bright.