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City of Hollister approves notice of fire service termination to San Juan Bautista, County of San Benito

SAN JUAN BAUTISTA, Calif. (KION) - Hollister city council members voted to approve sending a letter notifying San Juan Bautista and the County of San Benito that Hollister will stop providing fire services to the jurisdictions.

The service termination isn't immediate, as the letter indicates it's a 270 day notice to both the county and San Juan Bautista.

The letter argued the city simply doesn't have enough funding to support providing services to both entities.

Councilmember Resendiz was the lone council member to disagree with the yes vote by other council members.

Hollister Firefighters Association leader Vince Grewohl voiced his concerns with the move by council prior to the vote.

"We strongly encourage you not to use the 270-day termination clause as a negotiation tactic," said Grewohl. "We ask that you continue the contract as agreed to and begin good faith negotiations with your elected boards."

This is in reference to previous reporting by KION in speaking with staff at San Juan Bautista who said the contract isn't over until December 2025.

Some concerns brought up is the potential for firefighter layoffs and the possibility of a large fire happening in the county.

"Scaling back services to a growing community in the second wet year of growth leaves the public at an unreasonable risk," said a concerned Hollister resident. "Leaving the public at an unreasonable risk of having a Lahaina-scale fire not only as a possibility, but a strong likelihood.

The city previously told KION they're working to negotiate with the county and San Juan Bautista to work on a new "equitable" deal.

City of Hollister may cut fire resources to San Benito County and San Juan Bautista

Tensions are rising between the city of Hollister and the County of San Benito. Hollister may decide to break a contract they had with the county on Tuesday when the board will discuss the termination of fire services with San Benito County and the city of San Juan Bautista.

"I own businesses here. I own property here. And with the fire season and the drought, everything is ongoing. And so it's not a good thing for us. It's very scary," said Patricia B. who lives in San Juan Bautista.

The Hollister Fire Department has been providing resources to the station in San Juan Bautista since 2013.

Now, that partnership may soon be cut. Councilmember Rollin Resendiz says the city has mismanaged funds.

"We went from having $14 million in reserves to the next coming year, being in the negative within two years. Now trying to find ways to recoup some of that money. And unfortunately, our staff and our firefighters are going to be the ones to suffer those consequences," said Rolan Resendiz, Hollister City Council member.

The City Manager of San Juan Bautista says they were expecting this to happen next year when their contract expired.

"It's just a bit of a surprise because we thought the contract was ending in December 2025. And so now the conversation is to end it sooner than that. So we hadn't included it in our budget conversations for this fiscal year, and it wasn't on the radar until the council of Hollister, brought it up as a concern," said Don Reynolds, City Manager for San Juan Bautista.

The county says they planned to renew that 5-year contract in 2025. The county says it does not have its fire department like neighboring counties because they don’t generate as much revenue.

San Benito County Council member Kollin Kosmicki blames Hollister city leaders for putting peoples' safety at risk.

"They've allowed their fire department budget, without consulting anyone else get out of control. And now the city's going broke over, and they're coming to us and asking us to bail them out. We don't have the money," said Kosmicki.

Kosmicki says they are going to be in talks with CAL FIRE in the meantime. He says CAL FIRE assisted the county before the city of Hollister.

People in San Juan Bautista say they want unity between elected officials.

"I just would like to see the city working together, like whatever other powers that be, to make this a very cohesive and safe community," said Patricia.

“The Hollister City Council has determined it is in the best interest of the city to begin the termination process for the current fire agreements due to a continuing funding shortfall for services being provided by the city," said Mia Casey, Mayor of Hollister.

Editor's Note: This article was updated on June 19, 2024 at 12:11 pm.

Article Topic Follows: Hollister
san benito county
san juan bautista

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Dania Romero

Dania Romero is an reporter at KION News Channel 46.

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Victor Guzman

Victor Guzman is the Assistant News Director at KION News Channel 5/46.


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