RG on auction block

WARREN – A four-day auction has been scheduled in March to liquidate some of the assets of the idled RG Steel Mill on Warren’s Pine Avenue, but the owner says the sale will exclude the “whole hot side of the mill.”

A listing for the auction indicates the sale will ”exclude any assets used in the steel production process for the hot strip mill.” Mill owner Charles J. Betters said that means the auction will not include the blast furnace and castors.

The auction is scheduled for March 12 to 15 at the Pine Avenue plant. The mill’s owners have been considering it for several months in an attempt to recoup some of their ongoing expenses and finally agreed about the first of the year to move forward with it, Betters said.

Specifics of the sale listed on the websites of four auction houses working together on the project say the sale will include the ”complete large capacity machine shop,” ”complete fabrication shop,” ”complete carpentry shop,” ”complete tractor maintenance shop,” more than ”1,000 new and used electric motors,” three Cat backhoes, two Cat haul trucks, five Cat wheel loaders, forklifts cranes, grinders, hand tools and much more.

”We are selling excess equipment on the site,” Betters said Thursday evening. ”There’s a pile of stuff that we are going to auction off. A lot of redundant stuff. These are components that a mill doesn’t need to operate. Technically, most mills today outsource machine work.”

Betters maintains he and his partners are continuing their attempts to find a buyer willing to reopen and operate the 100-year-old mil, which has been idled since May when the former operator RG Steel declared bankruptcy. BDM Warren Steel Holdings LLC purchased the mill in August out of bankruptcy for about $17 million. Part of the deal included a promise that the new owners would try to restart the mill and not scrap it for at least nine months.

”We committed to nine months, and we do take that seriously,” Betters of Aliquippa said. ”We winterized it. We are working. I am still out there meeting with people. We are still trying to kindle interest. But there is only one thing for sure, I am not running it. I have said that from day one.”

Betters and his partners in the fall funded the nearly $1 million process of winterizing the mill to protect it against freezing temperatures that would have damaged infrastructure beyond repair in the hopes of eventually restarting the plant.

Still, Betters acknowledged Thursday that some equipment set to be sold at auction might be things a new owner would want for operations.

”Things we are selling may be needed, but we are trying to get some of our investment back,” he said.

Meghan Carter, director of marketing at auction company Maynard Industrials based in Vancouver, said the auction is listed with no minimum bid.

”I believe they will consider any offer,” she said Thursday. The company, billed as the largest automotive auctioneer and liquidator in the world, is working with three other companies, BidItUp Auctions in California; Cincinnati Industrial Auctioneers; and Myron Bowling Auctioneers on the project.

The joint project is necessary due to the large scope and length of the auction, according to a woman that answered the phone at BidItUp Auctions. The listing was posted last week, she said.

”My understanding is that a lot of those items aren’t really critical to the steel-producing part of the plant. In our last conversation he expressed his commitment to trying to market the plant,” Warren Mayor Doug Franklin said Thursday. ”It’s important to look at what part of the facility they are auctioning off. That’s not trying to give anyone false hope, that is just to point out that it still will give Mr. Betters the ability to market the part of the plant that is critical to steel production.”

Franklin said he has kept in constant contact with Betters and extends whatever assistance he can in BDM’s attempts to get the mill reopened.

The Warren RG Steel plant is one of the few remaining mills previously operated by RG Steel. Several others in Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland have been liquidated with some in the process of being razed. It was announced last month that the Sparrows Point RG Steel mill in Maryland, which once employed more than 30,000 steelworkers, would be demolished.

”We are working. We are doing whatever we can,” Betters said. ”And we are open for suggestions.”