Veterans groups, city consider lease for building deal

The exterior of the Veterans Memorial Building received some updates including a painted pathway to the main entrance. The building was built in 1927 and renovated in 2003.

Two years after the Hollister City Council approved a deal transferring management of the Veterans Memorial Building to local veterans groups, city officials and those organizations’ members are talking about renewing an expired contract.
That agreement expired in June, so the two sides have been working on a month-to-month basis. In general, the agreement involves the city subsidizing maintenance costs to the tune of $80,000 annually along with any individual repairs costing more than $5,000. In return, local chapters of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars manage the building and handle routine maintenance, collecting revenues that can go toward their causes.
Much of the focus at Monday’s special city council meeting where the two sides discussed the matter—there was no action planned for the item— was on the agreement’s classification. City Manager Bill Avera told council members he preferred changing it from an “operational agreement” to a lease. That would give the city “greater separation” from building activities.
“There’s not a lot of accountability,” Avera said, pausing. “That came out wrong. I don’t mean that. We don’t audit them on a regular basis.”
Avera said the city is “completely OK” with operations there, but added, “I just like the term lease better” and recommended a three- to five-year arrangement.
Mayor Ignacio Velazquez said the agreement has “worked out well.”
“The veterans have obviously turned it around and maintained it like their home, which it is,” Velazquez said of the city-owned building.
Veterans groups oversaw a significant refurbishment to the building for much of last year, 11 years after the Hollister Redevelopment Agency finished a $4.4 million renovation.
Veterans groups representative Joe Love, from the American Legion locally, seemed OK with the lease idea but added some other remarks to the talk. For one, he reminded officials that the majority of rental time in the building is taken by organizations who get to use it for free. He underscored how energy and other costs can add up and pointed out how sometimes there are just one or two people occupying space there.
“It’s a waste of assets,” he said.
Moving ahead, city officials expressed interest in seeing a spreadsheet of costs and revenues at the building.
“I’m very curious to see the expenditures and costs,” Councilwoman Mickie Luna said.

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