Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Annapolis, which shut down bottling operations and became a sales and distribution center last year, will closeMay 1, company officials announced yesterday.

The 48 workers at the Riva Road plant will be offered transfers to other Coke plants, said Kate Whiting, spokeswoman for the Columbia-based Coca-Cola Enterprises Northeast.

The bottling and distribution arm of Coca-Cola Co. bought the plant a year ago from a local family, halted all bottling and planned touse the plant entirely to distribute and sell products in Anne Arundel County, Whiting said.

The company decided to close the plant for economic reasons, she said.

"We're always looking to lower the cost of our operations (and become more efficient), Whiting said.

Kurt Vanderburg, business representative for Local 27 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, said his union plans to meet with company officials to ensure no one gets laid off.

"We'll do everything we can to work on getting the employees placed in other locations," he said. "Hopefully, nobody will end up losing their jobs."

Whiting said the company intends to find new jobs for all 48 workers. Thework force has shrunk from between 70 and 75 when the company boughtthe plant. Of those who have left, some were seasonal workers, whileothers quit or took transfers. Only six were laid off because of theproduction shutdown, Whiting said.

Vanderburg, whose local represents about 50 Annapolis Coke workers, said the announcement to employees Wednesday came as no surprise.

The company told employees a month ago it was considering alternate uses for the 110,000-square-footbuilding. Officials haven't yet determined whether they'll put it onthe market.

The plant opened in November 1986 and won an architectural award from Anne Arundel County government for attractive designand landscaping.

After May 1, either one or a combination of three area plants run by Coca-Cola Enterprises Northeast -- in Baltimore,Easton and Capitol Heights -- will serve the county. Whiting said she foresees no disruption in service to local customers.

Michael S.Lofton, the county economic development director, said that if the company decides to sell its building, county officials will work to attract a new business to the site.

"I'm hopeful it'll get back intouse as an employment center sooner rather than later," he said.

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