Government / Politics

Hollister code officers to enforce water-use rules

City manager admits it's a 'heavy-handed' step in Sunnyslope County Water District, but said that's what state water officials want to see

The city of Hollister has committed to provide a code enforcement officer to help the Sunnyslope County Water District enforce drought-related water usage rules, City Manager William Avera announced recently.

"We'll probably have an officer out there for 20 hours per week," Avera said, noting that the city will bill the water district for the officer's time and other costs associated with the enforcement, which is a last step after a letter encouraging water users to follow conservation tips. "I hate to say it this way…but I believe the state water resource board really wants to see us do some true enforcement and hammering the message home."

When city or water district officials receive a tip about a possible water-waster, Shawn Novack of the San Benito County Water Resources Association sends out a letter with tips on how to save water. "It's not until about the third time that we go out there and do the investigation on a particular property and ultimately, (levy) a fine. It's sort of a heavy-handed situation," he admitted to council members.

Mayor Ignacio Velazquez said it "seems a little harsh to be sending out code enforcement because someone has a sprinkler on," when it would be "easier to (identify water wasters) by usage."

Avera said that "it's disappointing that we have to use our staff to be the water police, but that's exactly where we're at this year." In response to the mayor's comment about using water usage numbers to identify over-users, Avera said that the Sunnyslope County Water District "will look at the top 300 water users in consumption and directly market to them initially," preferring to "do the outreach up front." He added that local water districts have seen "a tremendous amount of savings in the first month" since the state tightened water usage rules

City Councilwoman Mickie Luna asked Avera whether he would be coming back to the council to ask to hire another part-time code enforcement employee because of the responsibilities of water rule enforcement. Avera said, "Unless it becomes so overwhelming. We don't predict that, not."


Adam Breen

Adam Breen has been a San Benito County resident since 1980 and graduated from Sacred Heart School and San Benito High School before earning a bachelor's degree from California State University, Fresno. A father of two sons, Adam has taught newspaper, English and yearbook at SBHS for the past decade, after six years as a magazine editor for Santa Clara University. He previously was editor of the Hollister Free Lance and content director for BenitoLink.