Local Politics

San Juan Bautista City Council purchases water well

New water source brought on to address system contamination. The council also discussed replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples' Day.

The San Juan Bautista City Council took steps Aug. 30 to neutralize nitrate-laden water in the city’s well system.

At a special meeting, councilmembers voted 3-0 to authorize City Manager Michaele LaForge to sign an agreement with Coke Farms Inc. to purchase Well Six and 0.73 acres of land for $250,000.

Councilmembers Chris Martorana and Dan De Vries were absent.

The city had issues with Well Two being the source of nitrate contamination in 2014 and 2017. Although the cause of contamination is still unknown, water can be contaminated through groundwater movement and surface water seepage from nitrates in chemical fertilizers, human sewage and animal waste, and fertilizers, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Infants and pregnant women who consume water high in nitrates can become seriously ill. Adults can also be prone to serious illnesses like cancer and thyroid dysfunction if exposed long-term.

The agreement includes a $50,000 credit for Coke Farm’s purchase of 0.73 acres of land and Well Three; five sewer and water connection fee credits for the remainder of Coke’s land (estimated to be a $70,000 value); and access to Well Six if it’s not being used by the city.

The agreement also states Coke Farms will pay the city for the electricity cost of pumping water from Well Six and the groundwaterwater extraction fee for any water used by Coke Farms.

The city will also pay approximately $160,000 in attorney, engineering, and tie-in costs.

The alternative is to drill a new well, which would cost between $500,000 and $600,000, LaForge said.


Other San Juan Bautista council news

The council also approved a five-year lease agreement for an office machine for folding and stuffing utility bills.

Deputy City Clerk Trish Paetz said it is a time-consuming process for staff, and that after checking with Hollister staff for a better process, she was advised to look at machines to do the work.

LaForge said the new process would pay for itself in the third year of the intended five-year lease.

The City Council also approved the decommission of a 1988 International Vac-Con sewer truck.

LaForge said because the emission laws are changing it was important to get rid of the truck. She said it would cost the city $30,000 to get it certified.

The council also discussed whether to present a resolution or proclamation replacing Columbus Day on Oct. 8 with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Mayor Jim West said it was a good idea to add a day to celebrate indigenous people, however he did not want Columbus Day to be replaced. He added that the city can make it the day after or before Columbus Day.

“I think it’s a wonderful idea to recognize the Native Americans indigenous people and I think they should have a day of recognition,” West said. “But I do not agree, adamantly do not agree, to eliminate Columbus Day.”

He added that he understood all that had occurred, and that it was important to point out that Christopher Columbus never set foot in North America.

The closest Columbus got to North America was on his trip to Panama in 1502 during his fourth and last trip across the Atlantic, where he abandoned two of his four ships because of attacks by locals. He died in Spain in 1506.

Vice Mayor John Freeman cited several cities on the West Coast that have removed Columbus Day as a holiday. Freeman also cited the atrocities committed, but didn’t go into detail about the list he was referring to.

Councilman Tony Boch suggested putting the topic on the agenda of a regular meeting to hear any comments from both the Native American and the Italian communities.

“If the nation is not moving toward that and only a few cities and communities are recognizing it, why are we being the first?” meeting attendee Heidi Balz asked. “We have a lot of obstacles in our community than to worry about this right now.”



Noe Magaña

Noe Magaña is a BenitoLink reporter. He also experiments with videography and photography. A San Benito High School graduate with a bachelor's in journalism from San Jose State and a Liberal Arts Associate's Degree from Gavilan College. Noe also attended San Jose City College and was the managing editor for the City College Times, the school's newspaper. He also was a reporter and later a copy editor for San Jose State's Spartan Daily.

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