Twenty-five employees at WestRock’s Covington paper mill were temporarily laid off this month due to reduced market demand.

The plant employs about 1,000 people total.

“To balance supply and demand, we have made the decision to take additional temporary economic downtime on our machines and in other areas of the mill beginning on or about July 7,” Rebecca Johnson, communications manager for WestRock’s Covington facility, said in an email. “This economic downtime will enable us to better match our production with market demand.”

The company took downtime “in many areas” of the mill, and while some parts are starting back up again, one of the paper machines will remain down through August, Johnson said.

It remains unclear exactly when normal operations will fully resume.

“WestRock matches supply with customer demand. We will continue to monitor market conditions and will communicate updates or adjustments to this plan as needed,” Johnson said.

In 2018, officials announced that WestRock would invest nearly $250 million over five years to fund facility and equipment upgrades at the Covington site.

In 2020, the company temporarily laid off 67 workers. In May, the Atlanta-based company announced it would permanently close a mill in South Carolina, affecting 500 employees, and earlier this month, WestRock said it would permanently close its St. Louis facility, affecting dozens of employees.

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Roanoke River flows will increase temporarily due to Leesville Dam test

Appalachian Power will conduct a required test of its electricity generating units at the Leesville Dam from approximately 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. July 19.   

Testing will increase downstream flows from the dam at locations on the Roanoke River, also known locally as the Staunton River, according to a news release from the utility. The Altavista area can expect an increase of approximately 4 feet in river elevation. River flows will decrease and return to normal following the testing.

The testing is required by PJM Interconnection, the regional transmission organization that coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity in the mid-Atlantic region.

Leesville Dam is the lower dam of the Smith Mountain pumped storage hydroelectric project. Leesville Lake is in Bedford, Campbell and Pittsylvania counties on the Roanoke River.

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Deadline to apply for MECC Promise tuition program is Aug. 1

New high school graduates who want to enroll at Mountain Empire Community College this fall under the MECC Promise tuition coverage program have until Aug. 1 to complete their required documentation. 

The MECC Promise program guarantees up to two years of tuition-free community college for eligible high school graduates in Lee, Wise, Dickenson and Scott counties and the city of Norton. (Dickenson County students were required to complete their documentation by July 1.)

To be eligible, 2023 high school graduates must meet the following requirements:

  • Maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA.
  • Be continuously enrolled for up to two years or 72 credit hours until the completion of their first associate degree.
  • Live in the service area.
  • Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and other required documentation, including the MECC Scholarship Application at

Students who need help enrolling or completing their FAFSA or with advising can call MECC’s advising department at 276-523-2400.

The MECC Promise scholarship covers tuition expenses only and is a last-dollar scholarship that covers any remaining tuition costs after other scholarships and financial aid have been applied. Learn more about the program at