News

San Juan Bautista reconsiders firework ban and other projects

Math error delays bidding process for repairs to 11 streets.

At their monthly meeting on Sept. 20, the San Juan Bautista City Council decided to take a step back on three issues: road repair, a fireworks prohibition and, most significantly, the redrawing of sphere of influence and urban growth boundaries.

The City Council voted to reject four existing bids for road repairs called for under the 2022 Pavement Management Program. The estimates were for proposed projects on 11 streets in San Juan Bautista, including asphalt-concrete overlay, replacement of traffic markings, and installation of new sidewalks, curbs and gutters. 

Acting City Engineer Julie Behzad estimated the work would cost $850,000. City Manager Don Reynolds said that during the bidding process, the city also discovered a math error in its estimate of materials needed to do the repairs. The four bids received by the city, ranging from $1.19 million to $1.2 million, were rejected by the city to allow for corrections and to open the process up to more bidders.

Fireworks were also on the agenda, with a measure put forward to eliminate fireworks sales or discharging within the city limits. Councilmembers John Freeman, Scott Freels and Mary Edge objected to the measure and preferred a community fireworks display with tighter restrictions on when residents could use fireworks.  

“I understand completely the fear of the town burning to the ground,” Freeman said, “But I think most of the problem is from the illegal fireworks. And that is hard to stop because people just buy them elsewhere. I think we would be better off having a safe and sane event once a year, from, say, 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. and keep the ban on illegal fireworks.”  

Several community members commented that fireworks sales are important to the Anzar High School sports program, raising over $10,000 each year. Eliminating those sales, they argued, would mean that student athletes would not have reliable and safe equipment.

Councilmember Cesar Flores moved that the measure be modified to consider the concerns the council and speakers expressed and taken up again at a future meeting. His motion passed unanimously.

A decision was also made to extend the deadline for the urban growth boundary and sphere of influence studies that are currently being conducted.

“We got off to a fast start, and some people felt left behind,” Reynolds said. “We need to get back to earth and take a pause to make sure everybody is on the same page. The size of the urban growth boundaries and sphere of influence is in question, and it needs to be right.” 

Before the involvement of the EMC Planning Group, which the city hired to determine the final boundaries, an ad hoc committee of local officials and residents had been formed to study the issue. According to Reynolds, some of the committee members asked to reconvene their meetings. 

“I think our main concern is that the job had not been finished,” said Freels. “I did not want folks to think we were pulling some kind of fast one. I am not asking for a second chance, just a chance to finish the job.”

Reynolds also said he had been working with Edge and Freels on different approaches to the issue, possibly including another public meeting on determining the boundaries. 

“I feel it is important to revisit the issues,” Edge said. “And we need to invite the community, not just the people who will be affected by the boundaries, but everyone.”

The council voted unanimously to reactivate the ad hoc committee. While the study was supposed to have been completed by the end of this month because of a funding deadline imposed by the state, Reynolds negotiated a one-year extension for the city, allowing for further work on the proposed boundaries.

 

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Robert Eliason

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