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Saputo to close at end of August
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MONROE - Saputo Cheese, one of the top three contributors to the city's utilities revenue, will close on Aug. 31.

The whey processing facility on 11th Street currently employs 14 people. In a July 26 memo sent by President and Chief Operating Officer Terry Brockman to the Monroe location, Brockman announced the closure, calling it a result of "continuous evaluation."

"In our efforts to address the realities of a competitive market and remain a leader in the industry, Saputo continuously evaluates its activities for operational efficiencies," Brockman wrote. "We will meet with each employee individually to discuss compensation, benefits and transfer opportunities to other Saputo facilities."

Plant Manager Mark Tollakson informed Assistant City Administrator Martin Shanks of the impending closure the following day.

"It was kind of a shock," Shanks said.

The announcement was particularly surprising in light of discussion between Shanks and Tollakson as a part of an effort by Shanks, Monroe Chamber Executive Director Cara Carper, Green County Economic Development Executive Director Mike Johnson and Main Street Monroe Executive Director Jordan Nordby. Shanks said the group had been surveying businesses in an effort to boost the city's retention and gauge the likelihood of businesses expansions. In the survey, conducted a month ago, Shanks said Tollakson had given no indication of the plant closure.

Director of Public Works Al Gerber said the plant closure will cut revenue for both the wastewater treatment plant and the city's water utility. Saputo contributes about $300,000 to $400,000 of gross income to Monroe, which Gerber said accounts for about 20 percent of the treatment plant's annual income and 2 percent of the water utility's.

The loss of Saputo could cost individuals as well as businesses more in utility fees to make up the difference, Gerber said. However, he noted that the city will need time to evaluate the true effect of the difference, which could take up to a year to assess. The addition of new or expanding businesses would be a way for costs to remain unaffected by the loss of Saputo.

"It's definitely something to keep an eye on," Gerber said. "We'll have to see what change comes in before the difference can be evaluated."