San Benito County supervisors on Tuesday approved moving ahead on the extension of a contract for fire protection with Calfire and directed staff to bring it back to the board for final action and discussion at a future date.
Supervisors gave the direction to staff members with no official vote necessary, while it should come back to the board either June 5 or June 19.
“This is just more of a formality than last time,” Inman said of bringing the agenda item before the supervisors, even though they voted at a May 8 meeting not to contract with the Hollister Fire Department for fire service, leaving Calfire as the only logical choice. “With the wording, we are asking simply that you indicate that you want to bring back the existing contract.”
At the same meeting, the supervisors discussed the creation of a community fire committee that would include representatives from Calfire, the Hollister Fire Department, the San Juan Volunteer Fire Department and potentially city officials from both local jurisdictions.
Supervisor Margie Barrios said that she did not want the new fire community to be the same as the ad-hoc committee that pursued contracts with the two agencies, but to be a panel that would look at the countywide issue of fire protection to come up with solutions for the future.
Granger said such a committee would be subject to the Brown Act, meaning the meetings would need to be put on an agenda for the public and the meetings would need to be open to the public.
“I support keeping it open to the public,” said Supervisor Anthony Botelho. “As you know this is an evolving issue. I think the two cities and the county should work together to answer the questions we have to address over the long term, whether through a (fire) district or consolidation.”
Supervisor Jerrry Muenzer said his intent is to have all stakeholders at the table, including Aromas, that have anything to do with fire.
Barrios and Supervisor Robert Rivas said they want Calfire to “embrace” the San Juan Volunteer Fire Department and they thought having representatives on the committee would help with that.
Supervisor Jaime De La Cruz suggested that he and Barrios join the new fire committee, while Botelho said he felt he and Muenzer, who served on the ad-hoc committee, should continue to work on the issue. Muenzer said he would be fine with the other supervisors taking over the topic, as long as they report back to the meeting.
The supervisors directed staff to send out formal invitations to stakeholders to join the committee and said they would decide at a June meeting which supervisors would serve on it.