LA County and City of Montebello officials hosted a resource and information fair for employees and businesses affected by last week’s tornado, at Ark Montebello. Employees of Utilimaster, a heavily damaged vehicle services company, bow their heads as company manager Patty Muroyuki leads a group prayer Tuesday, March 28, 2023 (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)
Officials announced that the warehouse of Montebello’s Utilimaster, a vehicle service company that employed at least 100 workers, is closing after a rare tornado swept through the facility on March 22.
In a letter to city and federal officials and employees dated March 31, owner and operator The Shyft Group, GBT, LLC informed employees that their jobs would be terminated within two months.
Included in a notice to the City of Montebello are the number of implementing parties – 47 hourly employees and 13 salaried employees will be let go.
A Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notice (WARN) letter states that “During this time, you must engage in job search activities.” Please let us know if and when you will be taking on another role. In addition, between now and May 31, 2023, the Company may require you to appear to perform specific tasks at the Montebello facility.”
As of this report, the building was one of 11 red flag sites, considering it particularly damaged and unsafe for occupation.
A Shyft Group representative said in a recent statement that “employee safety and well-being is a top priority.”
“We are actively communicating with our employees, customers and suppliers to manage the business, as well as working closely with our insurer to assess the situation,” said Scott Worden of the Shyft Group.
In all, while only one person sustained minor injuries, 17 buildings in the Washington Boulevard and Vail Street area — the Montebello industrial neighborhood — were damaged. You mentioned hurricane damage.
Videos circulating online of the incident showed debris spewing from the ground and hovering in the sky as the storm’s 110-mile-per-hour winds lashed the business district, which includes a cluster of industrial and warehouse lots. Several were severely damaged, prompting fears that they may be closed for weeks while repairs are taking place.
Shortly after the hurricane struck, Los Angeles County and the City of Montebello engaged in emergency response sessions at Ark Montebello, a local church.
It was clear at the time, however, that there was concern about Shyft’s future, as staff gathered to find out more information. In a display of that concern, before entering the building, Utilimaster supervisor Patty Muruyuki offered a prayer for her workers over 60 who are looking for supportive services.
It was part of a broader business effort to respond to workers worried about their jobs.
Although not confirmed as an issue at the Utilimaster depot, many of the damaged buildings had asbestos-related issues, among the debris.
During an all-day resource fair shortly after the storm, South Coast Air Quality Management District organizers provided business owners and municipal officials with a general background on asbestos, a carcinogen used in buildings.
Given the risks associated with asbestos emissions, there are specific requirements for asbestos surveys and cleaning procedures.
The AQMD rule requires, among other things, that an asbestos survey be conducted prior to any clean-up activities to determine if any of the materials contain asbestos. Property owners should hire a certified asbestos consultant to conduct an asbestos survey of damaged building materials and debris to identify any and all asbestos-containing materials.
“South Coast AQMD has an open and ongoing investigation into this matter,” said Connie Mejita, a spokeswoman for AQMD.
According to city officials, businesses that have sought emergency aid are being evaluated for eligibility.
“The situation is volatile and the city continues to be actively involved in relief efforts,” said Michael Che, a spokesman for the city of Montebello.