Petersburg’s community cold storage has cut back hours along with pay for its one employee after Ocean Beauty Seafoods announced the permanent closure of its Petersburg plant.

The cold storage holds fish, meat and other frozen foods. It opened in 2007 and is run by the Petersburg Economic Development Council.

Cold storage manager Marv King moves moose meat ready for distribution around the community in December, 2017. (Joe Viechnicki/KFSK)

Resident David Whitethorn questioned the borough assembly about the changes Monday. “The manager’s that’s running that facility just took a 25 percent hit on his paycheck,” Whitethorn told the assembly. “I’m trying to figure out why and I’m trying to figure out why we didn’t raise the rates in that facility before this guy took a 25 percent cut in wages.”

The borough government does not oversee the cold storage. That’s the responsibility of the PEDC board. The PEDC does receive money to operate each year from the borough’s economic fund. Last week the PEDC board voted to reduce hours in the fall, winter and spring and maintain full operations for the summer. They also decided to redo the job description for the cold storage manager and reduced his salary. That took effect October 1st.

PEDC board member Brian Lynch responded to Whitethorn’s question at the assembly meeting. “We are raising the rates on the cold storage,” Lynch said. “The big hit here was Ocean Beauty closing. We’ve got a lot of product in there, lot of freezing and that really helped a great deal with the income for the cold storage. Yeah we’re at a bad cross roads, the idea of the manager taking a hit like that on his salary was not an easy thing and was extremely unfortunate.”

The closure of the Ocean Beauty plant will mean reduced blast freezing at the cold storage and the board is planning for a loss of revenue.

The PEDC’s Liz Cabrera writes in an email, “We have a number of direct marketers using the cold storage but they don’t generate the volume needed to cover the cost of running the facility as it operated when we had a large anchor tenant.”

“We were fortunate to have a solid amount of product run through the facility at least every other year and that kept the operation solvent during the lean years, but we can no longer count on those high volume years,” Cabrera writes, adding, “The board is trying to find a sustainable level while still providing year-round service for the businesses that depend on the facility.”

During the fall winter and spring the cold storage will be open from 8a .m. to noon Monday through Friday. After hours access is also available at the discretion of the manager and subject to a call out fee.