JEANNETTE, Pa. (KDKA) — The troubled Jeannette hemp-drying facility has been shut down by the city.
It follows several code violations, complaints from neighbors and employees who said they did not get paid.
The Patriot Shield plant has 30 days to fix their problems, the city said.
So where does the facility start?
The plant opened its doors without an occupancy permit. The city of Jeanette also learned there are a number of fire code violations.
“If there would be some kind of fire hazard in there, how are the people getting out of the rooms where they’re cutting all of that up? That’s another question. And I think that’s one of the biggest reasons they were shutting down,” neighbor Kevin Lock said.
Then the state Department of Environmental Protection gave a violation notice to the facility because of an odor coming from the building.
“It was pretty strong, at times,” Lock said. “At one point, you could drive down in the front of there … it smelled like you had a field growing over there. It was pretty bad.”
The Jeannette city solicitor told KDKA in a statement:
“Due to unresolved compliance issues with the hemp plant facility, the city has been forced to revoke the temporary occupancy permit.
“The city was required to issue a temporary stop work and cease and desist notice that must remain in effect until all compliance issues are addressed.
“We trust that this situation can be resolved for the benefit of everyone involved.”
But perhaps the worst problem for the plant was that they weren’t paying their employees.
Some of the nearly 200 employees who were not paid packed a city council chambers on Thursday night, asking for help.
Employees received their first month’s paychecks but not the second.
“Here I am working this job to pay my bills and now it’s not fair, it’s not. So when I don’t have water tomorrow morning because of these people here and they can take a shower with no problem,” one employee told KDKA.
Representatives from the Colorado-based company said the last paycheck was late because of problems within the hemp industry.
“There have been farmers who have not had the money to pay us, and there are farmers who just simply won’t,” said Andrew Englund, the Pennsylvania director for Patriot Shield.
Employees stayed late in city council chambers on Thursday while members of Patriot Shield worked to try to come to an agreement with the city.
A building code inspector will visit the factory on Friday. But until the cease and desist order is lifted, the employees remain without a paycheck.
“Unfortunately, the city doesn’t have a way to address the non-payment of employees. Council feels very badly for all of them, especially this close to the holidays,” said Tim Witt, the solicitor for the city of Jeannette.
Despite all this, neighbors said Jeannette needs the job.
“It’s a shame,” Jesse Bone said. “It could have been a great boost for the town, for people around here. There’s not a lot of jobs. It’s convenient for a lot of people because you didn’t really have to drive to work.”
The owners of the plant have not yet responded to KDKA’s request for comment.