Government / Politics

SJB council approves $14.6 million in bonds

It also fills two Planning Commission vacancies and reviews transportation and connectivity plan. 
Intersection Modifications. Image from the Active Transportation Plan.
Roundabouts. Image from the Active Transportation Plan.
Mini Circles. Image from the Active Transportation Plan.

On Jan. 31, the San Juan Bautista City Council approved a bond for its wastewater project, filled vacancies on the Planning Commission and reviewed its transportation and connectivity plan.

The City Council unanimously approved issuing $14.6 million in bonds for the wastewater project which will connect San Juan’s sewer system to Hollister’s waste treatment facility. The bond is required as part of an agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to secure interim funding before receiving two loans totaling $10.23 million and a $4.3 million grant from the department.

The bonds will bear a 4.93% interest rate and are expected to be paid off in two years when the city receives the USDA loan, which bears a 2.75% interest rate. The interest on the bonds will begin accruing on the first withdrawal of funds, according to the agenda packet. 

The project consists of installing a six-mile force main to the Hollister Treatment Plant, which is estimated to cost $18 million.

Over a 12-year period, San Juan has amassed over $800,000 in fines from the California State Water Resources Control Board for discharging high levels of sodium, chloride and bacterial pollutants into the Pajaro River from the wastewater treatment plant. The city has until Dec. 21, 2023, to become compliant with the agreement it signed with the Environmental Protection Agency on Aug. 18.

The two remaining vacancies on the five-member San Juan Bautista Planning Commission were filled by Mishele NewKirk-Smith, who was appointed to a four-year term, and former council member and planning commissioner Dan DeVries, who was appointed to a two-year term.

NewKirk-Smith had been nominated for a two-year term during the City Council meeting on Jan. 24, but before that vote, a point of order was raised over the position being advertised as a four-year term. The council withdrew her nomination and rescheduled the vote for Jan. 31 for the correct two-year term.

Research into the issue before the re-vote clarified that her term was intended for four years, as first thought. With no further obstacles, NewKirk-Smith was appointed to that term in a 4-1 vote. Councilmember Jackie Morris-Lopez voted “no.”

DeVries was nominated on Jan. 31 after the confusion over the advertised length of terms halted the proceedings on Jan. 24. The council appointed him to a two-year term following a 4-1 vote. Councilmember E. J. Sabathia voted “no.” 

The majority of the joint meeting was taken up by a presentation of the city’s Active Transportation and Community Connectivity Plan, resulting from a series of community workshops and meetings with local stakeholders held by the Citywell and Blue Zones design firms that began in March 2022. The plan was paid for with a $188,596 Caltrans Sustainable Transportation Planning Grant matched by $24,435 in city funds, according to a statement from the city included with the agenda packet.

The plan outlines ways to make driving, bicycling and walking safer in the town, and proposes to include the installation of roundabouts and traffic circles at busy intersections; create buffered “multi-modal” bike lanes and walkways to provide greater safety zones; install sidewalks in high-traffic areas where they don’t currently exist, and introduce more traffic calming measures.   

In total, the city would install five new roundabouts, modify five intersections, and install two traffic circles. Seventeen streets are proposed for bicycle lanes or shared-use paths for pedestrians.

Other proposals include a bike parking program, improved street lighting, tree planting, safer routes to school, a public art program, and green infrastructure.

The plan is available from the city website and begins on page six of the joint meeting’s agenda packet. The Zoom video of the workshop discussion has been posted to the city’s YouTube channel. The deadline for public comments is Feb. 3, and the final version of the plan will be presented to the City Council for adoption on Feb 21.


 We need your help. Support local, nonprofit news! BenitoLink is a nonprofit news website that reports on San Benito County. Our team is committed to this community and providing essential, accurate information to our fellow residents. It is expensive to produce local news and community support is what keeps the news flowing. Please consider supporting BenitoLink, San Benito County’s public service, nonprofit news.

Robert Eliason

I got my start as a photographer when my dad stuck a camera in my hand on the evening of my First Grade Open House. He taught me to observe, empathize, then finally compose the shot.  The editors at BenitoLink first approached me as a photographer. They were the ones to encourage me to write stories about things that interest me, turning me into a reporter as well.  BenitoLink is a great creative family that cares deeply about the San Benito community and I have been pleased to be a part of it.