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Tulare County Roundup

 Veteran Tulare Staffers To Step Down

City of Tulare will lose two veteran department heads. City Engineer Mike Whitlock will leave in March to join the Visalia firm of Mendoza and Associates who do construction engineering. Whitlock has been shepherding the big Cartmill interchange project this past few years,nearing final funding approvals from the CTC. He also has been in charge of several other multi-million dollar infrastructure projects in town.

Public Works Director Lew Nelson will leave as of January 1,2014 ending 10 years with the City of Tulare. Previously he was with the City of Visalia. Nelson has been honored as an a advocate of green energy “self generation” at the wastewater treatment plant in Tulare using waste biogas to generate power as well as adding solar power.

Lew Nelson and fuel cells

Lew Nelson and fuel cells

Tulare Weighs Fuel Cell Performance

Tulare’s Public Utility Board is again taking up shortfalls in the performance of the fuel cell technology at the wastewater treatment plant. Public Works Director Lew Nelson says the company who both installed and maintains the fuel cells has been lapse in their maintenance and has agreed to offer the city a credit because the fuel cells have not put out the amount of power  that was promised in the past year. Nelson says the company claims they have now fixed the problem. Thursday the board decided to extend the contract until 2016.If they had abandoned the fuel cells, the city may have had to pay even more to buy electricity again from SCE. Nelson says while results from the self generation program using fuel cells has been mixed the city solar farm is saving an estimated $100,000 a year. The city killed a plan for a battery plant that would store power to be located next to the WWT plant recently.

JD Heiskell To Expand Office

J.D. Heiskell will expand their corporate office in Tulare says CEO Scot Hillman.”We will add on 7500sf to our office on Cedar and move staff from the historical H St location where the company was founded in 1886.” Then they plan to donate the historical office building for a non-profit use.

City Eyes Property Sales

Visalia’s new mayor Steve Nelsen says he is pleased the council decided this week to move forward on a new Dispatch Center but hold up on construction of full Public Safety Building. ”We have lots of other needs in town” he says,and the City cannot afford to build the more expensive project right now.The Visalia City Council gave the go ahead to begin the design of a $16.1 million emergency dispatch center. The $52.6 million price tag on a joint Visalia Emergency Communication Center and Public Safety facility and difficulties in financing the project convinced Council members to build just the 19,000-square foot dispatch center.

To potentially raise money Nelsen has asked staff to prepare full list of city-owned properties that might put on the market.“If we can get a return on what we paid and can do without them I would look at a sale.” He expects the list to be available in January.Other council members agree. Member Collins has suggested selling the city parking lot on Stevenson at Mineral King perhaps for a multi-story mixed use residential complex that would benefit Downtown. Sale of properties might be used to build up funds to construct the Public Safety Building and Civic Center,both near Burke and Oak. Architects plan to show a layout in January of how the different Civic Center buildings might be located.
The good news gleaned from a city finance estimate – sales tax revenue is expected to rise 4% this coming fiscal year and property tax 5% as the economy heals.

Woodville Health Clinic: The farmworker town of Woodville will get a new Tulare Community Health Clinic thanks to a $316 667 Affordable Care grant. The clinic to be built by the Tulare non-profit group will open in 2014 with a full time doctor and be open 40 hours a week,also offering dental care. Tulare Regional Medical Center has clinic in Woodville.

Streamline Irrigation, a fast growing ag company based in Traver has expanded from 3 to 11 employees and will relocate to to Ave 384 east of Hwy 99 says Mike Washam,county Economic Development manager. Streamline has filed for a permit to be heard by the county Planning Commission to build a 3800sf office and 17,000sf of warehousing.

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