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Town Entertains High Hopes For Soviet Inspector Residency

December 12, 1987

MAGNA, Utah (AP) _ Residents of this neighborly mining town want to chat over a back fence or share a casserole with a group of Soviet arms-control inspectors moving here as a result of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty.

The visitors, due to arrive as early as May, likely will be isolated by double layers of superpower security that residents fear will frustrate their hopes for barbecue-and-borscht harmony.

″There will be some anxieties initially,″ Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, said Friday. ″We want them to feel our hospitality and warmth, but not get our secrets.″

Although specifics are sketchy, officials say it appears the team of some 30 Soviet inspectors will live in a guarded compound with little outside contact.

Their task will be to ensure that no Pershing 2 rocket motors are shipped from Magna’s Hercules Aerospace, which delivered its last motor in June.

″My first reaction was I thought it was great,″ said Marlene Norcross, vice president of the 11-member Magna Area Council. ″I hoped they would come with their dependents and live in the community and put their children in our schools.

″Up until a couple of days ago, I had hoped it would be our own cultural exchange,″ she said Wednesday. ″Now that’s probably not likely if they’re going to be in their own compound and not in the community much.″

Many residents want to welcome the Soviets as one more ingredient in a cultural stew of descendants of the Asians and East Europeans lured here when rich copper deposits were discovered in the Oquirrh Mountains.

Others, eager to change Magna’s image as a seedy stepsister to Salt Lake City, see the Soviet presence as a potential boon to tourism and commerce.

But security, not U.S.-Soviet brotherhood, is the chief consideration. The inspectors, who likely will serve one-year tours of duty, probably will be allowed to travel only within a 31-mile area of Hercules for leisure activities, but often with an official American escort and presumably closely watched by the FBI, officials have said.

Dale Nielson, a reporter for the weekly Magna Times, is one who believes the Soviet presence might conjure up a little magic for the town.

″It’s kind of like Cinderella gets a date to the ball,″ he said. ″A guy comes along with a slipper, and the slipper is the Russians.″

In the past decade, Magna has been transformed into a pleasant and affordable suburb of nearly 20,000 with easy access to Salt Lake City 16 miles to the east.

Settled in 1851 by Mormon pioneers who had come to the Salt Lake Valley four years before, Magna at first was a farming community. But when the copper industry was born in the early 1900s, the town attracted an ethnic mix of Greeks, Italians, Poles, Czechs, Japanese and Chinese who worked the mines and tried, with varying degrees of success, to co-exist with their strait-laced Mormon neighbors.

Hercules Inc., which arrived about 1913 to manufacture dynamite, started building propulsion systems for strategic nuclear missiles in the late 1950s as Hercules Aerospace.

The company began producing Pershing II motors in 1982 at the 3,000-acre Bacchus East plant and continued until June, when the last motors were delivered to the Army, spokesman Ted Olsen said.

Preliminary plans call for the Soviets to staff a checkpoint at Bacchus East Gate 20 to monitor the contents of departing vehicles and maintain round- the-clock surveillance of the perimeter of the 3,000-acre facility.

No Soviet would be allowed on the grounds or given access to other Bacchus projects, among them propulsion systems for the MX, Trident and small ICBM missiles, Olsen said.

″Our people are pleased to see this important step has been made to reduce nuclear arms,″ he said. ″But in the final analysis, we’ve still got to be responsible for safeguarding the technology.″

For Lee Orton, 72, who spends his days at Magna’s center for senior citizens, restrictions on the Soviet visitors seem an awful shame.

″For them to see the free-wheeling way of life we have, that’d have to be quite a revelation,″ he said.

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