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Rubatex brings in 40-ton boiler to plant

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By Tom Wilmoth

Rubatex International is in the process of installing a new boiler as part of a $750,000 investment to its Bedford operation. The company is hoping the city does all it can to help provide reasonable electric rates to help the company keep the new boiler running.

Earlier this month two cranes were brought in to help put the 40-ton boiler in place. The boiler helps power some 25 presses that cure the rubber produced by the company.

The new boiler replaces one originally built more than 50 years ago and it will be more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly, according to Claus Goyer, president of Rubatex. "I think it's a strong commitment," he said of the investment in the Bedford operation. "This is one of the most expensive parts at the plant."

Installation will take up to a month and the hope is to have it running in early July. The plant will shut down for a week during the switch-over process from the old boiler to the new one. A building is actually being constructed around the new boiler. The current boiler will likely be sold.

Officials from Rubatex and several other Bedford-based industries spoke during a public hearing on the city's upcoming budget recently, requesting relief from rising electric rates in the city. Keith Mann, chief financial officer with Rubatex, said the rising costs are a burden on the company, which employees more than 60 people locally.

Mann said electric costs have gone up 30 percent to 40 percent since Oct. 2004. Local industry officials have told council that the city should stop using the electric fund to supplement the general fund budget. The upcoming year's budget, approved last week by council, has a $1.4 million transfer from the electric fund to the general fund. Industry officials would like to see those funds remain in the electric fund and used instead to help offset the rising costs of electricity.

"We're happy to pay our fair share," Mann said. But the rising rates "definitely impact anything we can do long term," he said of expansion possibilities.

He added that if electric rates are increased, that should be done during budget discussions, not after the fact. He said the company's pricing is set and can't be adjusted in the middle of a budget year.

"We don't have the ability to go to our customers to change prices."

Mann said the company is competing globally and is hampered when it is paying electric rates higher than other industries outside the area.

Mann said the company likes being in Bedford. "It's a great place to raise a family," he said.

And company officials state that the new boiler will have less of an impact on the environment, showing its commitment to the community.

The boiler was brought into Bedford from North Carolina. HTF Mechanical Service of Moneta was on hand to help set it up.

Rubatex has been a worldwide leader in rubber manufacturing since 1935. With new management in 2004, Rubatex became an independently owned company. Its sister company, Berlin-based Sedo Chemical Neoprene GmbH, compliments the Bedford site's product lines.