SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Automated Flight Service Center at Cedar City will be closed, affecting 32 employees.
The center is being closed as part of a nationwide Federal Aviation Administration consolidation and privatization initiative.
Lockheed Martin, which won the $1.9 billion outsourcing contract, won't take over until fall, and it could be well into 2006 before it shuts down the Cedar City center.
The Cedar center is one of 38 being closed. Among them are centers in Prescott, Ariz., Denver and Reno, Nev.
Cedar City Mayor Gerald Sherratt said, "Our disappointment is this is something we've had here since the early '80s, and we alerted our national legislators this (closure) could be the case. We're calling on them again to help keep it here, but it may be too late.
"This will cost us some very good, high-paying jobs. In a community our size, those are important," Sherratt said.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said he made sure the Cedar City employees would have priority for job vacancies at "locally prevailing wages and benefits.
"This isn't a perfect situation, I know, but I am hopeful these good men and women will be able to secure employment with the new provider," he said.
The FSC sites provide weather briefings and related communication for pilots.
Lockheed spokesman Joe Wagovich could not say specifically why the Cedar City center was chosen for closure.
"We looked at factors such as the age of the facility and how it might be upgraded, how much air traffic is in the area, border security and quality of life issues," he said.
Another factor was Lockheed's determination that with technology upgrades, the remaining 20 centers could be transformed into an efficient system capable of handling the same areas as the older system.
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)