AK Steel took the next step in closing down its Ashland Works plant on Tuesday, sending out final notices of the closure to some 260 employees.

Renee S. Filiatraut, vice president external relations, labor and litigation at AK Steel, sent a letter detailing the notices to Michelle DeJohn, rapid response coordinator of the Kentucky Office of Employment & Training.

The letter from AK Steel states:

"As you know on Jan. 28, 2019 AK Steel announced its plans to permanently shut down all operations at the Ashland Works by the end of 2019. This plant closing will affect all 260 employees at the Ashland Works, which is located at 170 Armco Drive Ashland.

"Based on the best information available to AK Steel, we expect the closure of the Ashland works to be completed in two phases over the next few months," the letter states. "Position eliminations in Phase 1 will occur on Nov. 4, 2019, or during the two-week period thereafter. Position eliminations in Phase 2 will occur on Dec. 17, 2019, or during the two week period thereafter. We expect that 176 employees will be separated during Phase 1 and the remaining 84 employees will be separated during Phase 2."

Employees have been notified of the 60-day layoff notice, but details of how employees will be picked for the two phases of layoffs haven’t been determined.

“This is disheartening,” Union President Kendall Kilgore said Monday. “It (AK Steel) was an icon to this community. It provided many families with a good life. It’s going to be a great loss to Ashland.”

The company plans for production to continue as normal until the end of October. The remaining workers after the first round of layoffs will clear out the plant and prepare the equipment to be moved to other AK Steel plants.

Kilgore expects AK Steel will be closed by Dec. 31.

Tim Gibbs, executive director of the Ashland Alliance, said today is a "terrible, terrible day for all the families impacted." Gibbs expressed his sympathies for the families.

As The Daily Independent previously reported, AK Steel announced the planned closure of the Ashland Works plant in January. Most of the operations, including the blast furnace, had been idle since Dec. 15, 2015, but AK in Ashland continued to operate a single hot dip galvanizing coating line. It was detailed at the time that the remaining workers at the plant would have the opportunity to work in the third and fourth quarters of 2019.

The closing of the Ashland Works facility at this point represents the end of an era. Ashland Mayor Steve Gilmore said "Armco — and that’s what most of us around here still know it as — is what raised me. My dad worked there for 28 years. Most of my friends were Armco kids. It just did an unbelievable job providing great employment for the middle class. It’s something that’s hard to take.”

"When I think back of the history Armco has provided it is so disappointing and unfortunate that more people will not be able to reap the same type of benefits, a steady job, pay...it is so hard," Gilmore said. "Your heart goes out to everyone.

"I know that people have tried to prepare and we all knew it was coming but it is still difficult to prepare for that," Gilmore said. "My heart goes out to all of them."

Gibbs said a rapid response team is going to work on trying to find assistance for those displaced. The newspaper has learned some receiving notices might have a chance for work at another AK facility such as Dearborn, Mich., or Middletown, Ohio. Still others are expected to be able to enter into the company's retirement system.

Gibbs said local officials continue to work on a rapid response plan to help laid off workers make a plan for the future.

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