Hollister council approves transfer of veterans building

The Veterans Memorial Building is shown shortly after its renovation was finished.

The Hollister City Council unanimously approved a resolution Monday to transfer management of the Veterans Memorial Building in downtown Hollister to the local chapters of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion.
“We’ve been having discussions with them (the veterans groups) for a year or so” about the transfer, said Clay Lee, the community services director for the city.
He said the agreement would allow the veterans groups to manage the building and maintain it. The city would pay $80,000 per year to the veterans for maintenance costs. Additionally, if repairs are needed and tally $5,000 or more, the city would also take up those costs, too. The vets will take over the management Nov. 1.
“It’s your building,” said Councilman Victor Gomez to the veterans in attendance.
One snag the council faced was a prospective possessory tax matter with the building. Officials talked of looking into any possible taxes that might come with the building transfer.
“We don’t want to turn over issues to the vets,” said Mayor Ignacio Velazquez.
Interim City Manager Bill Avera said the building had not been assessed by an auditor for tax changes. There is concern that if the veterans take over management, questions about whether the building is now a public or private entity could prompt state and local tax implications affecting the veterans.
Avera assured council members that they could vote to approve the transfer now. He said the city would resolve the tax issues before Nov. 1 and amend the contract to reflect those changes before that time, if any changes are made.
“I don’t think we’d have a problem with it as long as we’re not stuck with the tax bill,” said Joe Love with the American Legion, about possible changes to the contract before the Nov. 1 deadline.
The City of Hollister took over management of the Veterans Memorial Building in 2000 from the county. The city’s now-defunct redevelopment agency contributed $5 million to the renovation of the facility completed about 10 years ago.
In light of the recession and budget issues, the veterans groups approached the council last spring to recommend the transfer. The goal was to have the city save money and transform the building from a budget drain – where the memorial had been running annual budget deficits in recent years – to a revenue-neutral situation.
“Hopefully, for the vets, it becomes revenue-positive,” Gomez said.
Councilman Ray Friend said that when Hollister took over the building from the county, the city invested a lot of money in it – with very little revenue in return. But he said with major improvements to the building over time and better management, that could change.
“I’m just thrilled we got to a point where we have an agreement,” he said.

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