Hollister City Council members Monday expressed some concern about the unpredictability of some costs in a new fire department contract with the county and San Juan Bautista and put off giving direction on it.
Instead, council members wanted the city to approach the county and San Juan officials about getting together and discussing the contract further.
In particular, Mayor Ignacio Velazquez and Councilman Karson Klauer specifically expressed concern about potential unknown costs associated with the deal. Councilwoman Mickie Luna was also in attendance, while Councilman Jim Gillio was absent from the special meeting.
The proposed, 10-year fire department contract calls for the county to pay $1.85 million in year one with escalators taking it to about $2.5 million in the final year, while it would have San Juan paying $228,000 in year one and $297,000 in year 10. But Velazquez was concerned that the City of Hollister would go forward with purchasing and owning all the related equipment and capital.
“I’m concerned about the idea of buying the fire equipment for the county and San Juan Bautista because now we’re taking ownership of everything,” the mayor said.
He and others acknowledged those other entities have had equipment issues under the current contract expiring in October.
“But I almost feel like we’d be taking that burden from them and putting it on our shoulders again,” Velazquez said.
City Manager Bill Avera, however, told officials he wanted the city to take the perspective of a traditional contractor in the arrangement.
“You don’t hire a contractor and then let him borrow your hammer to build your house,” Avera said.
Avera said he didn’t believe the county would be interest in a baseline cost along with additional costs for units of equipment or capital. He said the county will already have a hard time paying for the $1.85 million escalating cost. He pointed out how Hollister has a relatively new fleet of engines as well.
“With a relatively new fleet, we actually save a ton of money on repairs and maintenance,” he said.
Both Velazquez and Klauer showed some concern about the 3 percent escalating bill and whether it takes into consideration the uncertainty of the housing industry. If the county builds a lot of new homes, that may increase costs for the city.
The mayor talked about the county having 1,000-plus housing units on the table over the next several years, and Klauer seemed surprised that he actually agreed with the mayor on something. There was some talk about including a clause in the agreement based on the number of housing units that do, in fact, go online.
“I don’t think they’re going to be able to hit all the units that they’ve approved in the next 10 years, but if the economy continues to do well, you may see a lot of units come on,” Klauer said.
All sides agreed to approach those other entities and have further talks.
Velazquez after the meeting said there are a lot of unanswered questions before the city will sign a contract, particularly the idea of buying all the equipment and fire trucks for the two other entities.
“Why are we going to be buying equipment?” he said.