Government / Politics

$3 million state grant helps fund San Juan Bautista wastewater project

Assemblyman Rivas and Senator Caballero present the city with a ceremonial check.
San Juan Bautista City Manager Don Reynolds. Photo by Robert Eliason.
San Juan Bautista City Manager Don Reynolds. Photo by Robert Eliason.
San Juan Bautista council member John Freeman. Photo by Robert Eliason.
San Juan Bautista council member John Freeman. Photo by Robert Eliason.
State Senator Anna Caballero. Photo by Robert Eliason.
State Senator Anna Caballero. Photo by Robert Eliason.

It was a good day at the San Juan Bautista City Hall as City Manager Don Reynolds and Mayor Leslie Jordan were presented with a ceremonial check for $3 million by State Senator Anna Caballero and Assemblymember Robert Rivas. The money will help fund the city’s $18 million wastewater treatment project.

“Building relationships is what makes local government work,” Reynolds said. “And we have had great partners in the EPA, the Water Board, the Treasury Department, and the state. So applause to everyone.”

The project consists of building infrastructure to send San Juan Bautista’s wastewater to Hollister’s wastewater treatment plant. San Juan Bautista is also working on a separate project to connect to the West Hills treatment plant for potable water. Both projects are in the design stages. 

The ceremony was attended by City Councilmembers Cesar Flores, Mary Edge and John Freeman, as well as many of the state and local officials who played a part in resolving the city’s water and wastewater issues, including EPA Director of Enforcement Amy Miller-Brown, Central Coast Water Board Chair Jane Gray, outgoing Hollister Mayor Ignacio Velasquez, Hollister City Councilmember Dolores Morales and Shawn Novack of the Water Resources Association of San Benito County. 

Freeman said he had begun working on the water problem over 12 years ago and understood from the beginning that the hardest part of any project would be paying for it. 

“Our community is not a wealthy one,” he said. “We really needed the money, and this will go a long way towards helping us.”

Rivas said that even though the city’s project was not as “exciting” and “newsworthy” as some projects, it was still vital to the community.

“I’m so thankful we could take this moment to celebrate all of this hard work,” he said. “It was a collaborative effort to get this wastewater project funded and was a collective effort that spanned across many different agencies of legislative offices at the local, state, and federal levels that really has required inspirational teamwork.”

Caballero began by thanking the members of the California EPA, the state Water Board and the Central Coast Water District in attendance and recounted her own involvement in the project.

“This problem didn’t just pop up,” she said. “I started off my work representing this area after the 2006 election and immediately got engaged in trying to figure out how to solve this problem. The challenge was that we have the regulatory oversight to protect the environment, but we also have a city that was built hundreds of years ago with a system that no longer functions.”

Novack told BenitoLink that he was very excited the project was finally happening. “We’ve been talking about this for years,” he said. “I came into the district in 2004 and have been trying to deal with the water problems over here ever since. This seems like the best fix, and it’s great to see it finally come together.”

According to Reynolds, this completes the funding on the project. Already in place are a $1 million received from the Environmental Protection Agency’s State and Tribal Assistance Grants program, an increase in the city’s sewer rates, and a federal application pending for a $4 million grant and a $10 million low-interest loan.

 

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Robert Eliason

I got my start as a photographer when my dad stuck a camera in my hand on the evening of my First Grade Open House. He taught me to observe, empathize, then finally compose the shot.  The editors at BenitoLink first approached me as a photographer. They were the ones to encourage me to write stories about things that interest me, turning me into a reporter as well.  BenitoLink is a great creative family that cares deeply about the San Benito community and I have been pleased to be a part of it.