The San Benito County Board of Supervisors this week approved a three-year extension of the contract between the county and the City of Hollister for fire prevention services and named land on Rosa Morada on Fairview Road as the preferred location for the construction of Fire Station #3 to cover northern San Benito County.
“It’s been a little more than two years since we had an agreement with the City of Hollister to provide fire services for the unincorporated area of San Benito County,” said Ray Espinosa, county administrative officer. “Services have been very good and I haven’t had any issues.”
Espinosa said there have been numerous discussions in the fire subcommittee looking forward.
“It’s a three-year contract and there are annual increases of 3 percent for the next three years. One concerning factor for the county and the sub-committee was mitigation fees. We were able to work out with the city no mitigation fees, but for us to look what we need to do when it comes to the unincorporated areas.”
Supervisor Jerry Muenzer, who chaired the committee along with Supervisor Anthony Botelho, said there have been growing pains as the city experienced changes at the top of the fire department, with a departing chief, an interim chief and a new chief.
“By and large, the arrangement has worked well,” he said. “There were a lot of concerns in my district, in south county, that response times would not be the same and levels of service would not be the same. I don’t think any of that has ever changed. So I want to thank the City of Hollister Fire Department for stepping up and providing the level of service.”
He said that he made sure to include in the contract that as funds become available, there will be discussions about another fire station for the south county.
“There was give-and-take to come to this contract and I appreciate the willingness of the City of Hollister to negotiate with us and the City of San Juan (Bautista) and I think we have a good fire contract,” he said.
Botelho said he had the same concerns for his district as far as fire service was concerned.
“I anticipated we would have a few growing pains,” he said. “I have two of the existing fire stations in my district I was concerned. Going forward, I’m excited about this contract. It’s very reasonable. We have a new fire chief onboard who has a vision for the future in enhancing fire service and protection in our county.”
Supervisor Jamie De La Cruz declared the contract a “win-win” for the city and county.
“If there’s any constructive criticism, it would be grants,” he said. “Sometimes when we use grants to fund positions sometimes you’re stuck funding those positions. Yet the city and county doesn’t have any say if five new positions are funded, who will back up those positions once the grant money is gone? As long as the city knows that when they hire personnel they’re not going to continue have that staff unless ready to assume the full cost of those individuals. Other than that, it’s a great contract.”
Fire Station No. 3
Espinosa said the fire committee met 13 times over the last year and a half to discuss the new fire station. Originally, three potential sites were considered: Hollister Airport, Flynn Road near the County Jail, and Rosa Marada. Using data from the fire department, future growth projections, and traffic flow, Rosa Marada was chosen as the prime location for the new station.
Hollister Fire Chief Bob Martin Del Campo said the desired response time to any incident is five minutes. He said while coverage nearer to town is important it is crucial to cover the area near Rosa Morada.
“You have high-cost homes, Comstock Estates, the Fallon Road area and if the station is in the middle of that area, you can branch out,” he said and then addressed the need for a stoplight where the fire station would be located. “There has been a significant number of accidents along Fairview. The population is growing and I’d like to see us get ahead of it rather than us trying to play catch-up.”
Botelho said if the station is located at Rosa Morada it will impact people not only from a safety aspect, but financially, as well, in that they will be able to buy cheaper fire insurance because they live closer to a fire station.
Kristina Chavez Wyatt, executive director of the San Benito Business Council, disagreed with Botelho and Del Campo about the suitability of Rosa Morada.
“Although the Business Council has not formed a formal position, we’d like to express support for the Flynn Road location,” she said. “Water, sewage and electrical Infrastructure is already in place, with high quality, newer roads. It is already supported and maintained by private investment.”
She said major transportation accessibility to major transportation routes must also be taken into consideration.
“There are issues with the Rosa Morada area, including possible flooding issues that have been seen in the past,” Chavez Wyatt said. “While the use of this property is a good business concept, it’s short-sighted and it’s not a good location for a new fire station.”
De La Cruz expressed concerns over how effective a stop light at the station would be on Fairview, which was described in the meeting as a ‘six-mile dragstrip.”
Chief Del Campo answered, “Even if you don’t agree to put the station out there, you need stop lights. I’m going to advocate for that because it is a raceway. Six miles is a long stretch to be going 50, 60, 70 miles per hour. Statistics state the most accidents on rural roads are single vehicles. I’m advocating for a fire station out there also.”
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