City, school district pool ideas for Nash Road

City and school officials met Thursday at the Veterans Memorial Building.

Hollister council members and San Benito High School trustees reopened a contentious discussion about the future for a section of Nash Road, a street bisecting the campus that belongs to the county and city.
The school district would like to see the road closed, but the city council narrowly approved leaving it open at a regularly scheduled meeting four months ago.
Council members didn’t make any decisions at a special joint meeting held Tuesday. One of the three no votes would have to change in order to bring the item back to the city council agenda for official consideration.
“Sometimes I wonder, what would the discussion be if this was a grade school?” said Ray Rodriguez, the board president for the San Benito High School District. “Or if, heaven forbid, a student was killed on that road. What would that decision be?”
School district representatives did not speak at the January meeting and John Perales, the superintendent of the San Benito High School District, told the Free Lance following the earlier meeting that he did not know the item had been up for a vote.
About 100 people—mostly teachers, students and school district staff officials— gathered at the meeting this week and called the current road situation “a safety issue” while a handful of neighbors said closing the street would move traffic to crowded side streets.
“I understand it’s going to be closed, not just during school hours but from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. So what’s going to happen is traffic is going to be going down these small streets, many of which are very bad streets,” said Deborah Mattos, who lives near the campus on the corner of West and B streets.
The original proposal presented to city council members involved the district gifting a piece of land to the county for use in a regional park in exchange for Nash Road being closed from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.between West and Monterey streets. The county was also going to pick up the tab for an auxiliary road that would service the park and connect Nash Road with San Benito Street.
At the meeting this week, City Councilman Victor Gomez was a proponent of a pedestrian bridge solution, something school board trustee Bill Tiffany called “way too expensive” and “prohibitive in cost” to build as it pertains to the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. Gomez suggested crossing disabled students with crossing guards to keep the project costs down.
“Right now, no one is giving me a solution, except, ‘Hey let’s shove all the vehicles into the neighborhoods,’” Gomez said.
Gomez said he didn’t trust the county to build the bypass road anytime soon, a sentiment several neighbors echoed during public comments.
“What I need to say is, we really need that proposed road but I don’t trust the county, either,” said Mattos, who added that she also didn’t trust the city.
Jerry Sepulveda, who also lives near the school, shared similar thoughts and said he was “in a minority” at this meeting because he wanted to keep Nash Road open.
“Temporary for me in San Benito County doesn’t mean squat,” he said, referencing the suggested 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. road closure times and comparing it to the county’s treatment of the San Justo Reservoir, which has been “temporarily closed” to the public for years.
“I heard that the county does not do anything and that’s bothersome to me because the thing that I see and the area where we must come together is in working relationships,” said Perales, the school district superintendent.  “But when comments from our leaders are such that ‘the county does not do anything,’ then clearly there’s a lack of trust.”
Speaker Ed Schmidt suggested a clause in any agreement between the entities stating that the county would need to build a bypass road within a certain number of years or Nash Road would be reopened.
As the discussion about Nash Road drew to a close, Councilwoman Mickie Solorio Luna asked for a copy of the school district’s most recent traffic study.
“I believe the city council should have that,” she said.
Councilman Raymond Friend added that council members do worry about the safety of students crossing Nash Road. He suggested the county’s traffic study that is part of the environmental impact report coming out to the public in June for the regional park and river parkway project would likely show the bypass road should be built before Nash Road is closed.
“I heard absolutely nothing tonight different than what I heard—I believe it was—in January when we had the meeting,” he said. “You build the bypass by summer and I will bring it up to the council.”
Gomez would be willing to reconsider his vote, he said, “if we can set the right path. He mentioned concerns with moving traffic from Nash Road to the side streets.
“Tonight’s question isn’t necessarily about Nash Road closing. I know it needs to be closed,” he said. “It’s going to happen. I understand that. My question is the mitigation of it. What are we going to do to mitigate traffic around the school?”
January votes: Close Nash Road?
Yes: Mayor Ignacio Velazquez, Councilman Karson Klauer
No: Council members Victor Gomez, Mickie Luna and Ray Friend
January 2015: City council votes 3-2 against closing Nash Road. Superintendent John Perales tells the Free Lance he assumed the district would be notified if “something of this gravity” was going to be discussed.
March 2015:  San Benito High School trustees meet with an audience of at least 50 people to discuss problems with students and staff parking in front of residences and solutions to Nash Road.
May 2015: City Council and the San Benito High School District hold a special joint meeting before an audience of about 100 people to reopen a discussion of the future of Nash Road and to talk about possible joint projects.

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