Deseret Chemical Depot will take longer to close than previously expected, meaning massive workforce layoffs at one of Tooele County’s largest employers won’t begin in earnest until next year.
URS, the main contractor responsible for destroying the chemical weapons stockpile at the DCD, announced last week it has moved its closure timetable back by 14 months. The process of decontamination and decommissioning the chemical agent disposal facility is taking longer than originally expected, according to Mark Mesesan, communications specialist for URS.
The revised closure timetable also means a revised staff reduction plan. All layoffs of the remaining 1,062 employees at URS and its subcontractor, Battelle, were scheduled to be completed by July 2014, but according to the new plan, final layoffs will be completed by September 2015.
Staff reductions at URS started in January with 52 people being laid off. The second round of layoffs was planned for September with 92 people to be laid off, but that number has been reduced to 10 people to receive layoff notices in October.
The old staff reduction plan called for 542 people to be laid off in 2013 — 56 people in March and 486 in August. A total of 311 people were to be laid off in 2014 — 264 in January and 47 in July.
The new layoff schedule for URS employees shows 165 people to be laid off in 2013 with 25 between January and March, 40 in July, and 100 between September and November. Another 500 people are scheduled to be laid off in 2014, starting with 185 people in February, 165 people between March and April, 40 people between May and July, and 70 people between November and January 2015. In 2015, 65 people will be laid off between February and June, and the final layoff of 65 people will occur between August and September.
Battelle has not announced a staff reduction plan for the 262 employees that work for Battelle or Battelle’s subcontractor, Miller Science Technology Center.
The staff reduction plan is only an estimate, with the actual number and time of layoffs subject to change, Mesesan said.
The process of decontaminating secondary waste is taking longer than what was estimated when the original closure plan was developed.
While the destruction of chemical weapons concluded in January, the metal parts furnace is being used to burn secondary waste — material that was involved in the storage, handling or destruction of the chemical weapons, according to Mesesan.
“We have found that we may need to keep the metal parts furnace open longer than originally planned,” Mesesan said.
Tooele County Economic Development Director Nicole Cline welcomes the delay in the layoffs.
“It will give us more time to find prospective employers and new businesses to help offset the loss,” said Cline. “We will still end up with the same amount of people without jobs, but the delay, along with spreading the layoffs out so fewer will occur at one time, will make it easier on the community as it absorbs the job losses.”