Government / Politics

Supes talk Nash Road, local homeless issues

Supervisors, Hollister City Council and SBHS representatives express interest in seeking a resolution to Nash Road debate, honor new and outgoing Miss San Benito Rodeo

The San Benito County Board of Supervisors invited to their regular agenda meeting June 16 Hollister City Manager William Avera and San Benito High School District Superintendent John Perales to get clarity on the issue of the possible Nash Road closure near the high school.

A recent meeting among the three parties did not result in any agreement. At one point, District 2 Supervisor Anthony Botelho said, “Hollister (City Council) might not trust us.” District 3 representative and board Vice Chairman Robert Rivas related, “The joint meeting did not go well with me. Our neighbors vilified me. They think I’m not going to (support) funding of the (proposed) bypass” the county hopes to build south of campus.

But Rivas also urged that all three agencies should not act as “fiefdoms,” stop the finger-pointing and work together. Botelho echoed that sentiment.

Despite the emotions related to the issue, the county has allocated $500,000 from unused funds for the construction of the proposed bypass. Also, Perales told the board that the high school district spent about $13,000 to have their lawyers draft a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), ready for presentation.

District 4 Supervisor Jerry Muenzer asked Perales for details of the MOU, which the superintendent called “a temporary closing of Nash Road, construction of a bypass and the exchange of land for parkway.” Perales explained, “It’s easiest for us to deed land to an entity by exchanging a piece of land for another piece of land.” That piece of land will be used for building a parkway.

Avera told the board, “(The Hollister City Council) is not stopping (San Benito County) from closing Nash Road. It’s the (county’s) money and the (high school district’s) jurisdiction. The city is not stopping you. It’s only holding off on closing half of Nash Road.”

But Deputy County Counsel Shirley Murphy said closing Nash Road is easier said than done because half of it, where it passes through campus, lies in the city’s jurisdiction while the other is in the county’s. “There would be public hearings and resolutions before (the closing) happens,” she said.

If all parties were in agreement to the closing of the road, Public Works Department’s Joe Horwedel said, “It would take six months’ construction to get a base road done. Another six months for designing, purchasing and other services. All in all, about two years.”

District 1 Supervisor and Board Chairwoman Margie Barrios called for an aggressive schedule and agreed to get the purchasing of materials out of the way to speed up the project.

Board Announcements

Barrios announced the “smooth and successful” completion of county budget hearings on Monday. She also pointed out the alarming trend of tobacco shops cropping up in town, “especially near the schools. Many are concerned about this but we don’t want to violate business (license-holders’ rights).” Barrios also commented on “the garbage piling up near the bridge in San Juan Road” and said she was looking into “what to do with it.”

Consent Agenda

Supervisors approved the contract between the county and the Homeless Coalition of San Benito. It was agreed that for two months, lease activities will be the task of the Homeless Coalition while the county will determine eligibility for housing and run case management. At the end of two months, another extension may be sought from the board.

Public Hearings

The Board sought staff recommendations on the proposed public hearing on the Community Action Plan and the resolution approving the Community Service Block Grant to execute grant agreements and other documents.

Also, a $1.75 rate increase was approved at the John Smith Road Landfill, effective in July.

First 5 Seeks Independence

The Board approved the separation agreement and MOU between the county and First 5 San Benito, a commission that contracts with agencies to provide direct services to expectant parents and children up to 5 years old.

First 5 Executive Director Lisa Faulkner said her agency will continue to raise revenues for the county and continue its relationship with the board. Faulkner also said, as an independent entity, First 5 will take on its own liabilities and contract for its own legal and financial services.

Homeless Service Center

Howedel detailed the Public Works Department’s activities for the homeless. “Work is progressing with the architect on the Homeless Service Center," he said. "There have been discussions on amenities that should go into it like whether there should be a kitchen, whether it should be a nonprofit organization run by the county or a county organization run by a nonprofit.”

Health and Human Services Agency’s James Rydingsword added that “the population in the homeless encampment (near the San Benito River) is now stabilized so that the residents can take part in the project.” He said that the city is contracting services to get rid of the debris there, distribute trash bags and put portable toilets in the encampment. A preliminary budget for ongoing Homeless Service Center services is being put together even as funding source are being sought out. He said that it should be ready for the state’s approval by the end of the month.

Botelho observed that “If the Port-O-Lets are still not there, we should do it ourselves.” District 5 Supervisor Jaime De La Cruz urged that this project be funded by alternative sources other than the county and he commented that the dumpsters from the landfill operators might be a way of saving money.

Homeless Coalition’s Pat Loe, a former county supervisor, related that “there’s confusion in the communication about tiny homes. People call to ask if the money is for tiny homes, too." She asked the board to go on the record to clarify that the $1.5 million in grant money for the homeless facility is for a facility, not individual tiny homes."

Potential tax measure

In other news, there was no consensus reached to allow County Administrative Officer Ray Espinosa to contract for a public survey on a potential tax measure in unincorporated portions of the county.

Although up to $50,000 is available and $10,000 is needed for the poll, Rivas opposed it. He said, “I don’t think public opinion from the poll can do us service. We have a strong message and we should formulate it; not throw away $10,000.”

Botelho countered that “information can be gained from the survey,” to which Rivas replied, “Information can be collected from state or Sacramento.”

Barrios mediated by saying, “We need ideas on where to spend that one per cent from sales tax.” She moved for more discussion at the next board meeting.

Transportation issues

Muenzer said he was concerned that it was revealed in a letter that Caltrans is using San Benito County as a model for traffic. Turner replied that the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments (AMBAG) find the San Benito model consistent for its regional transportation report.

Turner also replied to the misconception that San Benito County no longer supports the widening of U.S. 101. “We are not collecting funds to widen 101. There’s no mitigation that it would mean a growth for the county.”

Botelho urged the board to move on this agenda “because jobs and businesses are coming in. July 21 would be a good date.” Barrios agreed to decide on the Plan by July 21.

Rodeo Queen honored

On a lighter side, outgoing Miss San Benito Rodeo Bailee Nelson, 18, and current Miss San Benito Rodeo, Megan Ford, 20, were welcomed by the Board. They invited everybody to the Saddle Horse Show and Rodeo and downtown parade beginning at 6 p.m. on June 25. The rodeo will be held June 26-28 at Bolado Park.


Harvey Barkin

Harvey Barkin is a Freelance Journalist and Technical Writer. His stories have appeared in various media.