Despite concerns that the idea had not been discussed in detail prior to the vote and that it could set a precedent that may be hard to live up to when crimes occur in the future, the Hollister City Council on Tuesday voted 3-1 to create a $50,000 fund designed to encourge anonymous tips that could help the Hollister Police Department solve crimes. The action was taken at an emergency meeting called Monday by Mayor Ignacio Velazquez, who said the council should help the police department gather more leads in the Aug. 1 shooting death of Ariana Zendejas, allegedly by 20-year-old Jose Antonio Barajas, who is believed to have Vanessa Flores-Ibarra with him. Flores-Ibarra is listed as a missing person.

Half of the fund — $25,000 — would be offered as a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Barajas and the return of Flores-Ibarra.

“I don’t want another tragedy on our hands because we were afraid to act or we were worried about our general fund,” from which the $50,000 will come, Velasquez said. “I called this special meeting when I felt this has gone on long enough. How do we give the police department the tools they need to get the information they need?”

Councilman Victor Gomez said he was concerned “about the precedent this may set for the future and how we determine how severe each case is. I understand the importance of this case. I understand that it’s something very important to the family and the community. My sister was murdered here in Hollister seven years ago.That was a tragic event for myself and for my family and thanks to the work of back then Sargeant (David) Westrick (now the police chief) and his staff, it led our family to a point of we got some closure for the murder of my sister.”

Gomez said he would support the creation of the reward fund for this year “because I believe it’s very important for the community and very important for the family to hopefully find some closure … I hope this encourages somebody to come out and share the location of this individual and also the girl that’s being held against her will. So I will support this today; I cannot support this going forward. I don’t want to set a standard today and say in every single case this is what we’re going to do. I think this is a very unique circumstance and that’s why I’m supporting this.”

Raised on the west side of Hollister in “VH” (Villa Hermosa), Gomez said he grew up around violence.

“I’m so frickin tired of it, it’s upsetting to me,” he said. “So I really hope that this encourages some kind of information to come forward.”

Councilwoman Pauline Valdivia, who lives about a block away from where the murder occurred at West and B streets, near San Benito High School, said she was concerned by the lack of information she had about the reward fund.

“For me, it’s hard to sit here when I don’t have all the pieces to the puzzle,” said Valdivia, who cast the lone dissenting vote on the resolution. “I know this is urgent, but it would have been better for us to discuss it and do our pros and cons or whatever and make our decision about what we’re going to do. My heart goes out to everybody here; I feel real bad … I think it’s tragic that this thing happened in our community.”

Valdivia said the city should pursue funding from Sacramento to help fund a reward and that she found it hard to tell the community as well as fire and police unions — who are in contract negotiations with the city — that there isn’t money to spend when it can come up with $50,000 at a meeting called 24 hours earlier.

“We could get resources from other areas to do this,” she said. “I still don’t have all the information to make a valid decision on this right now.”

Councilman Ray Friend agreed that fiscal accountability is important and suggested that a long-term policy regarding a reward fund be brought back before the council. Still, he said he favored the creation of the reward fund because “I think we need to send the message to the people in the city or the county that think they can do this, that the city council is going to pay what it has to pay to ensure that it stops. Im not sure this is the answer, (but) this is what we can do. I think it’s important that we do it immediately.”

Friend said that in his six years as a councilman, he has “never received as many calls as I have yesterday and today” regarding the reward fund.

“I understand the need for accountability and I don’t belive we’re going to be writing blank checks out of here – that’s not going to happen,” he said. “But in this case it is something that needs to be done.”