The Hollister City Council held a special meeting Sept. 12 to hear reports from staff members and then vote on a five-year capital improvement plan for fiscal years 2016-17 to 2020-21 in the amount of $4,088,610. Potential storm drainage fixes and discussion about whether residents should be responsible for planting trees along streets were among the topics.

According to a staff report to the council from City Manager Bill Avera: “The Capital Improvement Projects Program is a five-year plan based on the City’s priorities and financial restrictions determined by the City’s current financial forecast. The plan is reviewed and revised annually to evaluate City infrastructure needs within financial forecast limitations.”

A Capital Improvement Project (CIP) is any major improvement to city facilities or Infrastructure. These projects usually involve the construction, purchase, or renovations of buildings, parks, streets or other physical structures. It must meet the criteria of a capital asset, which means is has a cost of approximately $20,000 or more and has a long, useful life.

CIP expenditures typically address one-time needs, as opposed to the city’s operations budget, which addresses ongoing year-to-year needs. CIP projects vary in complexity. Some may require years of planning and construction; others require less time to complete.

One by one, the council heard reports on each project that had been approved, beginning with the report on planned drainage, with associated costs over the five-year plan totaling $3,111,132 through 2018, with no expenditures indicated from 2018 through 2020, and then a final $589,680 for fiscal year 2020-21.

The street-by-street report from Mike Chambless, Hollister’s management services director, included projects that had already been approved by the council, beginning with an upgrade at Fourth and Line streets.

“This is the installation of a storm drainage system for Fourth Street, which would take care of all areas that flood on a regular basis every time it rains,” he said. “There are several storm line project throughout this in order to get the water off the pavement as fast as possible.”

Mayor Ignacio Velazquez commented that it would be easier to understand the presentations if the council had a map so they could visualize what Chambless was referring to. In an effort to assist, Bill Avera, city manager, showed the council a map as the presentation continued.

Chambless explained that the storm drain presently starts at the river, goes down Fourth Street and ends at Line Street. The new project would extend it east on Fourth Street to West Street, where surface draining already exists and would connect to it.

Councilman Karson Klauer asked if it would make sense to also replace water lines at the same time, while the street is already open.

“My first thought was this would be awesome if the water line breaks then the water would go into the storm drains,” he said.

“The issue with that is that the water line has to be 10 feet away from the storm line,” Chambless said.

Because of the lack of a map so everyone could visualize what was being explained, the meeting began to sound like the “who’s on first” comedy routine as the council repeatedly asked Chambless which way the drain was going and where it would end. Bill Avera, city manager, finally brought back the map that helped settle the confusion.

The mayor wanted to know about other streets and Chambless explained they were just talking about the first of several projects. Velazquez asked why the Fourth Street project did not link up with Monterey Street. Chambless told him there was no flooding issue there. He then went on to list all of the upcoming projects, including: College and Fifth streets, Monterey and Hawkins streets, San Benito and Haydon streets, San Benito and First Street and Sixth streets, Sixth and Powell streets, and Suiter Street.

“Those are the grand total of storm drain improvement programs recommended at this time,” he said.

Klauer wondered if the projects were going to be sent out for bids or if the city crews would be handling them. Chambless said a bid would go out as a single package for all the projects in order to get “more bang for the buck.” Klauer thought it might make more sense to complete all of the projects in one year, rather than spread them out until 2020. Chambless agreed that the more that could be done in the beginning the better, but it would come down to a matter of when funding fell into place.

Friend asked about the Suiter Street project and wondered if it was in the county’s jurisdiction rather than within city boundaries. Chambless said the city owns part of the street. Velazquez asked to go back to the Fourth Street project and asked about flooding on West and Fifth streets. He said every time it rains, water runs over the curb in front of the library. Avera said there is no storm drain there and until one is installed there will always be flooding. The city manager said that when the other improvements were in place it might help reduce flooding at that location.

“We specifically targeted the areas that we have to go out and put the ‘flooded’ signs for traffic safety situations,” Chambless said.

“So, you expect $3.7 million to be spent in the next two fiscal years?” Friend asked.

“Requesting, not expecting,” Chambless answered.

Velazquez wanted to know why the areas that habitually flood the most weren’t being addressed first and if there was any sort of rating system to determine which should be done first. Chambless said Fourth Street was a bigger problem to him than San Benito Street, about which the mayor had expressed concern. David Rubcic, from the city’s engineering department, said the priorities were established in 2011, when the sewage master plan was drawn up and were approved by the city council at that time.

The planned upgrades included:

  • Fourth and Line $1,750,665
  • Bella Vista and Sunnyslope $42,745
  • College and Fifth $45,000
  • Monterey and Hawkins $97,777
  • San Benito and Haydon $683,200
  • San Benito and First $210,910
  • Sixth and San Benito $205,835
  • Sixth and Powell $75,000
  • Suiter $589,680

Under facility improvements, the following projects were discussed, with some not yet approved:

  • Airport Building 21 rehab $100,000
  • Skate Spot at Dunne Park $50,000
  • Bathroom at Klauer Park $50,000 (not approved)
  • Bathroom at McCarthy Park $50,000 (not approved)
  • Bathroom at Tony Aguirre Park $50,000 (not approved)
  • Bathroom at Valley View Park $50,000 (approved)
  • Calaveras park improvements $150,000
  • City phone system/network Infrastructure $150,000
  • Disposal Beds at domestic wastewater treatment plant $1,100,00
  • Equalization Basin/Tank $1,500,000
  • Evidence processing/long-term storage  building for sheriff $250,000
  • McCarthy Park, replacement of turf $250,000
  • Police parking lot extension $60,000
  • Valley View dog park $25,000
  • Yard shop $50,000

Street and road projects included:

  • Brigantino parking lot paving $120,000
  • Street tree replacement $40,000
  • West Gateway beautification $30,000

When the discussion turned to the proposed $40,000 to replace trees that had been knocked down by cars, died, had been removed downtown for various reasons, or were in neighborhoods that Chambless described as “wastelands” because trees had never been replaced, Mayor Velazquez suggested that homeowners plant the trees in front of their homes rather than the city.

“I agree in the downtown streets where it’s important to us,” he said. “But in the neighborhoods, why don’t the property owners to deal with it?”

Chambless said the municipal code requires trees along neighborhood streets and it is the homeowner’s responsibility to plant trees, but only when ordered to do so. Velazquez said he had been asked why the city is planting new trees along Monterey Street when it isn’t taking care of the old trees. Chambless answered that the city does take care of the trees, to the best of its staffing abilities.

“The arborist’s position with the city was cut seven years ago,” he said.

“And we talked about having a company come in here and take care of that,” the mayor said.

Chambless said a request for proposals had been issued and a contract would be coming to the council for approval. The mayor said he was mainly concerned about neighborhood trees and said, again, why not just let the homeowners deal with them? Chambless continued to defend the need for trees, which he said added value to neighborhoods. He said the trees that were being planted were not “sidewalk busters” and the city waters them for the first couple years until they’re established.

“PG&E recently came through and ripped out 50 trees and they provided us with about 100 trees,” he said. “We’ve planted about 93. I am trying to take care of the trees. The code says trees are important and that’s why this item was brought before you.”

Klauer wondered if code enforcement could mail a letter to residents to have them plant the trees so they would be more likely to take care of them. Velazquez said someone told him they were trying to water a tree when code enforcement told them they could not touch the tree.

“He wanted to know whose tree was it,” Velazquez said. “The trees down the street were dying because no one was watering them. His point was, ‘whose responsibility is it?’ Nobody has a clear answer.”

Avera said the tree belongs to the homeowner, but if the city removes a tree, the city should replace it. Friend wondered why, if a tree is on city property, should the homeowner have to worry about watering it. Avera said city crews do water them for the first few years and then they should be healthy for 20 or 30 years. The mayor remained unmoved and insisted on the homeowners being responsible for the trees in neighborhoods.

Councilwoman Mickie Luna asked Chambless if the majority of the trees to be replaced were downtown. He told her the trees were primarily in neighborhoods.

“We had several developers make poor tree choices in the past that have destroyed sidewalks,” he explained. “That section has no trees left and the plan was to go into those areas because there are no trees left.”

Friend said he thought any trees that the city removed should be replaced. Chambless said public works crews have taken out more than 150 trees that it has not replaced. 

For the total list and explanations of projects, go to:


John Chadwell worked as a feature, news and investigative reporter for BenitoLink on a freelance basis for seven years, leaving the role in Sept. 2023. Chadwell first entered the U.S. Navy right out of...