I had the privilege of serving as San Benito County Supervisor for twelve years, from 1982 to 1995. While a County Supervisor, we had tremendous success with several projects including: building the 156 bypass, fixing bridges, as well as completing the ball fields at Vets Park.
During this time, the Board of Supervisors updated the General Plan which included future plans for housing and roads. This planning also involved a great deal of public discussion on the newly mandated regulatory framework for landfills and whether or not to upgrade and expand the existing landfill or build a new one.
At the time, the City of Hollister and the County of San Benito jointly operated the landfill and to be quite frank, we weren’t doing such a great job of it. Unfortunately, our landfill was like so many across the United States, woefully in need of air, soil and water monitoring systems and better operating practices. Past practices had resulted in environmental impacts requiring costly cleanups. The Board of Supervisors decided it was time to bring on a professional landfill operator and develop strategies that would allow the landfill to operate without requiring funding from the county General Fund.
After many hours of public hearings including surrounding property owners, as well as the general public, the Hollister City Council and the San Juan Council, the Board of Supervisors decided that the landfill should plan to expand and accept out-of-county waste. So the first decision by the Board of Supervisors to accept out-of-county waste was made back in 1992. The idea was that the landfill would generate revenue from out-of-county waste, to be used to help stabilize local garbage rates and for the landfill to become self-sustaining and no longer require General Fund dollars. That is in fact what happened.
Over the years, the County of San Benito has collected revenue from every ton of waste that has gone into the John Smith Road Landfill. Aside from the revenue to our County, we all benefit from being able to affordably dispose of our garbage. For example, if you take a pick-up truck load to our landfill, it will cost you around $11-20 depending on the weight. If you took that same load to the San Martin transfer station it would cost around $100-200. Ultimately, without the expansion, this is what we would have to look forward to.
However, a few people have started a misinformation campaign about “Don’t dump on us Silicon Valley.” When I see signs like this in front yards of people [whom] I would agree with on most, if not all, subjects, I ask myself, “How did this happen?” Out-of-county waste has been coming to the John Smith Road Landfill for just under twenty years. Silicon Valley is not dumping on San Benito County—Silicon Valley and other counties that bring their waste here are paying for the operation of your landfill and keeping your rates low.
The fact is the landfill pays for itself. No General Fund dollars are used.
The fact is the operators of the landfill donate thousands of dollars to charity.
The fact is San Benito has the lowest fees for dumping in all surrounding counties.
The fact is our landfill is one of the best in all of California.
The fact is the expansion has been planned and agreed upon for over 30 years.
The fact is the current landfill will be full and will otherwise close.
The fact is the alternative to expanding the landfill is to transfer garbage out of the county.
The amount San Benito County is required to pay to operate the landfill is zero; the amount the County receives for allowing the operator to pay all those operations costs is over a million dollars annually.
Without the expansion, we will all be affected. We will lose the convenience, the revenue, and the control over our own rates. In exchange, we will have a few less trucks on McCloskey Road and the small stretch of Fairview between McCloskey and John Smith Road. Not to mention a transfer station would still require garbage trucks to drive in and out of the county.
So ask yourself, “What is best for the San Benito County taxpayer?” You be the judge.
Mike R. Graves
San Benito County Board of Supervisors ret. 1982-1995