Barbara Toddao lives in Heatherwood Estates, which is bordered by John Smith Road to the north. She said that she has had to fix nine flat tires because of the number of potholes on the road, and that the amount of debris strewn on the road by trucks bound for the John Smith Landfill has damaged her car.
When BenitoLink talked to Toddao on Feb. 14, she shared her complaints about the road. She said she once watched two county road crew workers filling potholes by pouring in pea gravel and stomping it down with their feet.
“The other day one of the big rigs went racing by and threw pea gravel all over my car and pitted my windshield and the car,” Toddao said.
Toddao is not alone in her frustrations. Supervisor Jim Gillio said he and the other supervisors constantly receive complaints about every major road in San Benito County, and that John Smith Road has resulted in a half-dozen or so complaints. The road is in Gillio’s district.
There are about 340 miles of maintained roads in San Benito County, many of which are substandard, according to a 2016 study by Pavement Engineering, Inc. The study found it would take $389 million to repair every road. Hollister alone would have to spend $3 million just to maintain its roads in their present condition.
According to Toddao, she was laughed at when she called the county about the damage to her car. “They said ‘lady, you’re not going to get anything out of San Benito.’”
Supervisor Anthony Botelho said that’s not how he remembered the conversation. He said he was in the room on the other side of that call, along with Resource Management Agency Director John Guertin and County Administrative Officer Ray Espinosa.
“It’s nowhere factually true that anybody was laughing about it,” Botelho said. “The roads are not only a concern of the supervisors and we have our staffs working hard on it. Ms. Toddao was very critical of our staff out there in the field doing the very best they can. We couldn’t get a word in edgewise, so I took the lead on the phone call. It was evident she was interested in talking and not listening.”
Botelho said Toddao wanted something in writing that stated San Benito County was responsible for damages to her car. He said he tried to tell her without more facts to back up her claims, the county wasn’t responsible for anything. He said Guertin then started to explain how she could file a claim with the county.
“By that time, she hung up on us,” Botelho said. “My understanding from Gillio [is] this is almost a daily occurrence. This is a constituent we’re not going to make happy.”
Botelho said that Guertin and Espinosa did an extraordinary service by talking to Toddao, and added “but we need to move on from people like that.”
Toddao said she had spoken with Gillio and that he was more receptive—sending her forms to file a claim—but that she was still upset at those she talked to on the phone.
Botelho voiced support for the county road crew and said they are overwhelmed trying to maintain hundreds of miles of roads with just four people.
Even though John Smith Road is not in his district, Botelho confirmed that a portion of road has not been repaired for a number of years because of the planned $2.7 million realignment at the intersection with Fairview Road.
Both Botelho and Gillio said independent of each other that supervisors may soon abandon the project because of unsurmountable mitigation issues concerning wildlife habitat.
“It’s at the point where we should just repave that section to make it consistent with the rest of the road,” Botelho said. “It would be far safer with the realignment, but the mitigation involving the [California tiger salamander] is exorbitant. I’ve never seen one [salamander] out there and it’s a shame, and the funding is more or less in place with impact fees and the agreement with Waste Connections out at the landfill. I think that project will happen in the very near future.”
He then addressed ongoing closed-session negotiations with Waste Connections.
“We have a tentative agreement being drawn up right now. If it doesn’t come before the board at the next meeting, it will be the second meeting of March for sure. We’re excited about it because it provides additional revenue to the county.”
Botelho couldn’t give specific figures or details about the agreement, but said once released it will be clear that the county will “have a substantial amount of money to deal with the road impacts from outside waste with upfront money and ongoing money.”
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