With the recent Federal Court signing of a settlement agreement dispensing with the last lingering lawsuit still facing the city of Visalia and co-defendant VWR International, city leaders are looking to put a positive spin to the end of a tumultuous period in our city’s history.
The pair of lawsuits filed in both state and Federal courts by the Teamster’s Union and a trio of environmental organizations stung by the sudden relocation to Visalia of a regional shipping warehouse previously operating out of Brisbane, a small industrial city in the Bay Area.
The pair of lawsuits alleged that the city and VWR conspired to circumvent environmental safeguards during the permitting and construction phases of VWR’s new 500,000 sq. ft. Visalia shipping warehouse. And that the city and VWR failed to submit an Environmental Impact Report required under CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act), and that the city unlawfully agreed to pay $1.5 million in costs VWR incurred relating to the relocation.
Originally tossed out by a Tulare County Superior Court judge, the lawsuit was reinstated by Fresno’s Fifth District Court of Appeal, with the California Supreme Court affirming the ruling of the appeals court and refusing to hear an appeal by Visalia and VWR.
As a court date for the suit loomed larger, VWR and the city decided to agree to settle the case without admitting guilt.
Attorneys for the city say the move was solely intended to avoid the high costs associated with the litigation of such a case.
The city of Visalia agreed to donate $50,000 to The Rose Foundation, a private foundation dedicated to the support of Community and Environmental Issues operating out of Oakland.
As for VWR, the industry leading worldwide provider of laboratory supplies and services, the company agreed to a litany of environmental moves and changes at its Visalia Distribution Center, including replacing all lighting with energy-saving LED bulbs, installing an electric car charging station for use by its employees who wish to go electric, replacing all forklifts at the facility with electric powered models, removing all air conditioning equipment and replacing it with swamp coolers and a continuing list of other environment supportive upgrades.
Visalia Mayor Amy Shuklian said she is happy to see the period come to an end with VWR safely settled into the community with its $2 million plus in annual sales tax revenues ready to dump into the city’s coffers each year.
“We (the city council) feel that we did the right thing, and made the right choices in bringing VWR to Visalia. Despite the significant cost of the settlement for the city, it was a good investment for the city.”
Councilmen Steve Nelson and Warren Gubler strongly echoed Shuklian’s position on both the settlement and the successful pursuit of VWR by the city. Both enthusiastically identified themselves as emphatically pro-business as representatives of the City of Visalia.
Councilman Bob Link had no comments to make regarding the settlement or VWR, and Greg Collins could not be reached for comment.