"Devastating, blindsiding, heartbreaking," says group of laid of - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

"Devastating, blindsiding, heartbreaking," says group of laid off nuclear workers

(Source: WISTV) (Source: WISTV)
FAIRFIELD COUNTY, SC (WIS) -

On a typical weekday, the Italian Garden restaurant in Winnsboro would be bustling with workers from V.C. Summer.

“Many workers meet here in the afternoons to drink a beer, drink tea, grab a bite to eat after work, but as you can see now, it’s noon, and there’s not many people here,” said Neil Robinson.

Wednesday, now-former V.C. Summer workers were there for a different reason. Robinson, a Fairfield County councilman, invited them there to talk to WIS.

“People are angry. I’m angry, and I feel exactly what they’re feeling,” he said, with the others seated around a large table in an empty dining room.

Midday Monday, everyone at the table was taken by surprise when V.C. Summer suddenly abandoned work on two new reactors.

“All of a sudden, bam. We were told to come to the break area, and that was it,” said Judy Stigall, who relocated from North Carolina to work at the plant.

“Short notice,” added another former worker, James Roosevelt McConnell. “Never been on a job that give you notice like that.”

“I grabbed my stuff, what little personal items that I had, and I went on out the gate,” said LeVerne Ragin from across the table.

The former workers said it hurt badly because they were making progress on the expansion.

“I’m not going to say you saw the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Robert Kuhns, who relocated from Pittsburgh to work at V.C. Summer. “But you know when you get back on the road. You hear the rumble strips on the side of the road, and you know you got an issue. But when you get back in the middle of the road and you start heading in the right direction – that’s where we were going.”

Some who sat around the table are at retirement age. Others aren’t.

“What did I do last night?” answered Troy Ragin, LeVerne’s son. “I ran over the time that I was planning on doing it, but I spent my whole night putting in applications.”

They’re also concerned about the area they call home.

“Seems like every time we get a business to come into town here in Fairfield County, they’ll stay a couple years, and boom, you back at a ghost town,” LeVerne Ragin added. “Right now, what I’m looking at, we’re back at a ghost town.”

Councilman Robinson is worried about that too. For the councilman, it’s a unique situation, because of the person who sits beside him at the table, his wife, Diana Robinson who is one of the thousands out of a job.

“People as far as Alaska have moved over here with the promise of a job and job security, and then, we were blindsided,” she said.

Councilman Robinson said the area deserves help from the federal government, and he hopes President Donald Trump will make a visit to Fairfield County to offer his support.

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