San Juan Bautista City Manager Reynolds told the Dec. 20 City Council meeting that the Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved two loans totaling $10.23 million and a grant for $4.3 million toward the completion of the wastewater and water project that he has been pursuing since he took office in 2019. This follows the city receiving a $3 million grant from the state of California.
Reynolds has proposed an $18 million project consisting of building infrastructure to send San Juan Bautista’s wastewater to Hollister’s wastewater treatment plant. The grant and loan from the USDA means the project is now fully funded. There is a separate project to connect to the West Hills treatment plant to provide potable water.
Both projects are in the design stages.
The loans are for 40 years at 2.25% interest and will be made available after the project is built; an interim loan will be used to bridge the gap. Meanwhile, the city is still paying fines for water standard violations which have totaled $33,000 over the last six months.
San Juan Bautista residents experienced a water rate increase in 2022 as a result of the projects. Reynolds is on vacation and was not available to comment on whether the rates would be affected by the USDA loan.
Council members sworn in
San Juan Bautista’s new city councilmembers E. J. Sabathia and Jackie Morris-Lopez and returning councilmember Leslie Jordan were sworn into office on Dec. 20. Jordan, who is currently mayor, was elected to another one-year term in the leadership role with votes from Councilmembers Morris-Lopez and Sabathia and herself. This is her third consecutive term as mayor. Councilman John Freeman was also nominated but received votes only from Councilmember Scott Freels and himself. Freeman was elected to serve as mayor pro-tempore, also known as vice mayor, with support from Sabathia, Freels and himself.
Traditionally, San Juan Bautista rotated mayors—whereby the mayor pro-tempore became mayor the following year—until 2018 when the council elected Cesar Flores. Freeman was in line for the mayor’s position that year.
The first item on the agenda was a resolution declaring the results of the Nov. 8 general election, which included a vote on filling three seats on the City Council. With five candidates running, the final count showed Morris-Lopez receiving 400 votes, Jordan receiving 377 votes, and Sabathia receiving 354 votes. Jose Aranda and Steve Harris fell short, with 352 and 318 votes, respectively.
After the resolution, there was a ceremony honoring departing councilmembers Mary Edge and Cesar Flores, Planning Commissioner Morris-Lopez, and retiring City Treasurer Michelle Sabathia. With Morris-Lopez leaving the Planning Commission, there are now four vacancies to be filled. The city has appointed an ad-hoc committee consisting of Jordan and Sabathia to interview candidates for the positions.
Following a presentation on the Brown Act by City Attorney Bob Rathie, which requires local government business to be conducted at public meetings, City Manager Don Reynolds gave his monthly report.
Reynolds outlined upcoming strategic planning activities beginning in February, including a community workshop and a city survey, with the goal of completing a final plan by March. The year’s budget will be built on the approved plan, meaning that if a project is not included in the plan, it cannot be funded.
As a response to his November performance evaluation, Reynolds said he would be establishing weekly office hours to meet with council members individually and would consider expanding City Hall office hours.
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