Regional Hazmat Team Gone, Counties Take Over

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The Benton County Intergovernmental Cooperation Council has been in discussion for almost a year about how to better utilize hazardous material response.

“What has occurred is that Benton County will manage hazardous materials response in a different format with the same outcome as it has been done for decades now,” says Rogers Fire Chief Tom Jenkins.

The Northwest Arkansas Regional Hazmat Team which served Benton and Washington Counties since the 1980’s will soon be no longer.

 “The team grew to be a little stale and ultimately because we weren’t able to reach an agreement as to how have the team evolved in its structure,” adds Jenkins.

Each county will take over emergency calls regarding hazardous materials, with larger cities serving the smaller cities.

 “The various cities either have or will have to increase their ability to respond and the people will be better protected than they ever have been,” says Jenkins.

“The ability to respond quickly to mitigate any loss of life or property that can be occurred with a hazardous material incident,” adds Robert McGowen, Benton County Emergency Management Director.

Jenkins says over the years they have built up hazardous response materials.

“Everything we do in the fire department now is much more everything else and much less fire, whether we are talking about infectious diseases because we run the ambulance and respond when people are injured or ill,” says Jenkins.  “It’s going to cost our tax payers less, we are going to spend less money on Hazardous materials response in the city of Rogers and have a more effective response program and that’s a win, win situation.”

Jenkins says the city of Rogers was paying more than $10,000 to the Regional Hazmat Team.

 “Based on the counties paying in and the cities paying in the per capita amount they will split that money equally and be able to buy equipment for the response capabilities for each agency,” explains McGowen.

In order to make it official cities will have to sign the agreement.