Iron County isn't yanking the welcome mat out from under a Nevada rocket fuel component manufacturer that was cited for 30 safety violations the day after announcing it would relocate near Cedar City.
And Pacific Engineering and Production Co. officials said they still plan to begin construction on the new ammonium perchlorate plant as soon as financing can be arranged, while also fighting the citations.PEPCON announced last Wednesday that the Henderson, Nev., plant destroyed in a series of explosions on May 4 would be rebuilt at a remote site 15 miles northwest of Cedar City.
That announcement was followed the next day by the disclosure of the citations, which were issued by the Nevada Division of Health and Safety and carry fines totaling $36,455.
The alleged violations, which range from willful to less than serious, include the charge that PEPCON exposed employees to the likelihood of fire and explosion through a lack of manufacturing controls and standard operating procedures.
The allegations haven't stopped Iron County Commissioner Jim Robinson and Cedar City Mayor Robert Linford, who helped lure PEPCON to Utah, from continuing to stand behind the company they hope will boost the depressed local economy.
Both said PEPCON officials warned them that the safety violations were pending at their first meeting and assured them that the new plant would include safety features to help prevent a repeat of the incident that left two workers dead and 350 or so others injured.
"We are not overly concerned," Robinson said. "We don't feel this changes our minds about their locating here."
Linford said city leaders will conduct a seminar in Henderson on Aug. 12 for the 16 PEPCON workers there who are relocating to Iron County, to help sell them on the benefits of their new home.
Keith Rooker, PEPCON executive vice president and general counsel, said the citations could change the company's mind about keeping part of its operations in southern Nevada.
Current plans call for the Iron County plant to manufacture ammonium perchlorate and another new plant to eventually be built somewhere in southern Nevada to produce a necessary ingredient, sodium chlorate.
The Iron County plant is expected to initially employ 70 workers and expand to a work force of 150. The southern Nevada plant would provide 15 to 20 jobs, according to PEPCON officials.
"In the long run it is conceivable, depending on how this is ultimately resolved, that this could have some impact," Rooker said of the citations' effect on the decision to split the manufacturing operations.
Because PEPCON is one of only two manufacturers of ammonium perchlorate in the country, the company is under pressure to be back in production as soon as possible.
The chemical is the oxidizer in the solid rocket fuel used in the space shuttle and a variety of weapons. Unless PEPCON resumes production by the beginning of next year, both Morton Thiokol and Hercules have warned layoffs are imminent.
To help meet its Feb. 1 deadline for reopening, Rooker said PEPCON is planning to use purchased sodium chlorate at the Iron County plant. That will also enable the company to postpone a decision on where to manufacture its own sodium chlorate.
Rooker said PEPCON has still not decided whether to use the state's bonding capacity, made available by a special session of the Legislature in July. He said it is likely that the company will instead finance the $23 million plant through First Interstate Bank.
Construction is expected to begin as soon as the financing is in place. Iron County crews have already started work on a road to the construction site and are searching for a full-time building inspector who will be hired to supervise the project.