Hazmat Dispute in Tulare County

Visalia, Calif. For the last 15 years, the city of Visalia's Fire Department has provided hazmat emergency response service to all of Kings and Tulare Counties.

Chief Mark Nelson, who's trying to cut $700,000 from the fire department's budget, is facing a tough choice -- dismantle the hazmat team or come up with some creative financing.

"The city of Visalia is providing that service for two counties and we were bearing the entire cost of the programs," said Chief Nelson.

Monday night the Visalia city council voted to stop providing the hazmat service to Kings County and the city of Hanford because both may be starting their own service.

Still, maintaining the hazmat team costs the city $120,000 a year. To sustain that cost, Nelson is proposing an annual fee for business in Tulare County which stores hazardous materials. The cost would be -- $25 to $100, depending on the amount and type of materials on site.

"90% of our hazmat incidents are business related and we just thought it would be appropriate people who are using hazardous materials storing hazardous materials, processing should pay that fee to help sustain the emergency operational costs," said Chief Nelson.

County supervisors who were at first against this idea and were considering using Fresno or Bakersfield for hazmat calls -- are now joining with the city to keep hazmat response local.

Over the next few months county leaders will be out trying to sell the fee to the 2,700 businesses in the county which have a license to house hazardous materials.

Action News talked to some business owners ranging from pest control to oil change shops. They didn't want to talk on-camera, but one business owner said the fee angers him, another said the fee, while small, is still another cost business owners will have to consider when budgeting.

The city of Visalia hopes to finalize the fees by June 30th.

Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.