Hercules officials met with the Salt Lake County Planning Commission Tuesday to "put concerns to rest" regarding the company's proposed expansion of its Bacchus West operations.
But commissioners and local residents raised concerns about the safety of the proposed operation, which would enable Hercules to build Titan IV rocket motors. Hercules officials promised to respond to those concerns and any others during a public hearing before the commission at the Salt Lake County Government Center at 7 p.m. May 17."The question is personal safety versus economic well-being," said Commissioner James W. Smith. While Hercules greatly contributes to the economy, the safety of the community must be fully considered.
Joe Ribotto of the Magna Community Council said he has not found anyone in Magna who is in favor of the proposed expansion - with the exception of Hercules employees.
"The Magna Community Council unanimously opposes expansion of Hercules because we feel it poses a hazard to our community," he said. Citing accidents at Morton Thiokol and the recent rocket fuel plant explosion in Henderson, Nev., Ribotto said the council is concerned about the possibility of similar accidents at the Hercules plant.
Jack McCord, director of safety at Hercules, said there are major differences between the operations of his company and those of the Henderson plant, including the quantity of the materials produced. Hercules doesn't want to store the materials in its plant, and will only produce the amount needed, he said.
Safety is Hercules' top goal, said Jack DeMann, director of public affairs. "We feel we're not increasing or decreasing the safety by adding additional buildings."
DeMann said the rocket business is extremely competitive and if the proposed facilities are not built and the production schedules are not met, it would be "a significant loss" to the county and state.
Each rocket motor not completed on schedule will mean a $40 to $45 million sales loss. If the entire contract is canceled, it could mean up to a $2 billion loss to the company, he said.
Steve Harris of the Magna Community Council also expressed concern about the proposal. While the Henderson plant, where the explosion took place, performs different operations than Hercules, he said, "That blast proves what destruction can do to a community."
Not everyone at the meeting opposed the expansion, however. Rep. Arlo James, D-Salt Lake, said the Kearns Town Council favors the expansion proposal and encourages the commission to accept it.
"The new facilities will require additional employees, as well as help support the state's depressed economy, by adding names to the taxpayers' roll," said James.