San Juan council OKs revisions to fire contract

A San Juan Bautista Fire Department fire engine responded to this fire about a half mile west of the intersection of Route 156 and San Felipe Road in August. The blaze was part of a string of fires appearing along Route 156.

San Juan Bautista council members Tuesday approved support for a new three-year contract with the City of Hollister for fire services with amended changes, but also had some adjustments for their counterparts to weigh before making it official.
Council members unanimously approved the new contract as long as the city is OK with some minor tweaks in contract language, such as housing certain equipment in the Mission City station. If Hollister is OK with those revisions, the contract would be made final, officials explained Tuesday.
San Juan Bautista and the county since mid-2013 have contracted with Hollister for fire department services. Officials with Hollister and the county previously agreed on a three-year extension to the deal that ended in June, but San Juan Bautista leaders had gone back and forth with their counterparts over some key details such as use of volunteers or housing of the local station by firefighters.
The proposed deal with San Juan is retroactive to Oct. 1 and was initially set to cost the Mission City $159,000 the first year with inflation escalators.
At last week’s special meeting, a continuation of a discussion from earlier this month, most San Juan council members appeared to eventually support the three-year deal with minor changes made during this week’s discussion.
Much of the talk last week—discussions were much briefer Tuesday night—revolved around concerns about the section in the proposed contract on staffing. San Juan officials expressed concern about the expiration of a federal grant providing funds for a dozen firefighters on a staff of about 40. The county in the spring of 2013 received a $2.2 million SAFER grant and brought on 12 firefighters for a term of three years each, but there’s no guarantee those positions will be there after the grant expires.
Fire Chief Bob Martin Del Campo last week expressed confidence in either an extension to the grant or other forms of funding to pay for the positions. Del Campo also discussed other options such as pursuing a public safety tax and he took responsibility for the push to maintain at least two full-time firefighters on every call. He was against a minimum staffing level for the San Juan station, too.

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