The Hollister Downtown Association’s proposal for the city to pay about $75,000 for year-round tree lighting and a sound system is on hold after the council voted unanimously to further study the matter and separate the two proposals.
The startup costs would include $71,658 for equipment and another $3,300 annual electrical cost.
Initial setup costs were estimated at about $39,000 for the lighting and $32,000 for the sound, according to the agenda summary to go with the annual electricity expenditure.
Council members questioned some aspects of the idea, while speakers were both supportive and opposed to the agenda item.
Councilman Karson Klauer started the conversation by speculating that maintenance would bring on additional costs each year that the city would likely have to fund.
“My concern is anytime there’s maintenance involved, it’s never a one-time expense,” Klauer said.
He went on: “If we’re going to do this, we’ve got to play we’re going to be spending this money.”
HDA Executive Director Jeana Arnold, however, offered the organization’s perspective and said it came from the nonprofit’s design committee.
“This is something we felt would enhance downtown and we brought it forward,” Arnold said, noting how the group had worked with city staff on the proposal for six to eight months.
HDA Board President Dan Recht told the council the concept has worked in a lot of different communities. He said the HDA was willing to potential adjustments to the idea and would make sure the additions would not be disruptive.
Business interests were all in favor of the idea, though.
“We as business owners aren’t trying to battle with the HDA or anything like that,” said Jack Barbieri, owner of the Hollister House Bar & Grill, adding how a group of business interests got together to discuss the matter. “Nobody has come to us to ask us if we want sound.”
Peter Hernandez, owner of Ohana Shave Ice, said the focus should be on business and foot traffic. He said he’s not against the HDA or putting lights downtown.
“What we’re saying is listen to us. We have a voice. We have an opinion,” he said.
Property owner and manager Tony LoBue supported the idea and said the sound system wouldn’t hurt anyone as long as it’s turned off at a certain time. His business partner and sister Marie Peterson agreed.
“Anything that could help these downtown businesses survive and make a little bit of money, because they always say they’re not making money, I would fully support,” she said.
Future council members, meanwhile, will likely make the final decision on the matter.
Incoming District 4 Councilman Marty Richman spoke, saying he’s supportive of the lighting but wasn’t so excited about the sound part.
“Sound comes in,” he said of nearby homes and businesses. “It’s interruptive. I’m not convinced we should put a sound system put in.”
Richman noted how many of the downtown businesses already had decided to put up lights themselves and for less money.
“That’s a lot of money,” Richman said of the HDA request.
Another incoming council member, Rolan District in District 2, was critical of the cost and said there hadn’t been enough input from the public.
“Seventy thousand dollars,” he said. “Just let that sit with you for a quick minute.”
After several other speakers talked as well, Klauer said both sides should sit down and figure it out. Councilwoman Carol Lenoir like the lighting idea but thought the sound concept needed more discussion. Councilwoman Mickie Luna was concerned about a potential fire danger with lights on trees all year, pointing out the house fire that occurred two homes away from her houseon Homestead Avenue a week ago.
“I’m very concerned about those trees,” she said. “Those trees belong to the city. And so what kind of lighting is on them, is there any possibility the tree could catch on fire and the fire could catch a building?”
That’s when the head of public works, Mike Chambless, suggested the council re-write the proposals and break it into two items. The council unanimously approved further studying it and separating the ideas, with Mayor Ignacio Velazquez absent from the meeting.