Gavilan trustee recommends Leatherback MOU

Gavilan College held its graduation ceremony Thursday.

A Gavilan College trustee recommended the board consider a memorandum of understanding with the City of Hollister to run an educational center at the city’s Leatherback property as a discussion topic at a general board meeting, during a facilities development and utilization committee meeting Tuesday.
Trustee Mark Dover’s suggestion this week followed mention of the same MOU during an ad hoc educational site committee meeting held last month in Hollister. During the ad hoc meeting—the first of its kind in three years—trustees discussed three possible education centers in San Benito County before an audience of 25 community members that included Mayor Ignacio Velazquez and Gavilan College President Steve Kinsella.
The former city redevelopment agency had purchased the Leatherback property—an old paper mill site—and demolished the building before the state abolished the agencies, City Manager Bill Avera told trustees this week.
In August, city council members okayed a deal with TTI Developers for exclusive negotiations over possible acquisition of the Leatherback site to lease it as an education center for the Gavilan College, according to a council agenda. The college still has active plans to build a permanent campus at the Fairview Corners site off Airline Highway once enrollment meets a certain threshold.
Gavilan College trustees five years ago studied the possibility of using the old Leatherback site near downtown Hollister for temporary classroom space. The college at the time had been pursuing classroom expansion with capacity running out at the Briggs Building downtown.
The building created by developers would be about 20,000 square feet, Avera told the trustees at the meeting this week. Frederick Harris, Gavilan’s vice president of administrative services, added the developers would likely want a 15-year lease to make it viable.
At the recent meeting, a dozen people sat in the audience, including Gavilan Trustees Lois Locci and Kent Child who had been at the ad hoc educational site committee meeting last month, and represent San Benito County.
An education center at the Leatherback site on McCray Street would be a baby step toward establishing a full campus because it could increase enrollment numbers in the area, which could earn the site matching dollars for building facilities if a state facilities bond passes.
Kathleen Rose, the college’s vice president of instructional services, added that whatever property the district decides to move to in Hollister should include vocational training, since there is $200 million in funding available from the state chancellor’s office for this kind of education.
“Kent, correct me if I’m wrong,” said Dover, the trustee who represents Gilroy. “Have we ever said, even when we build our site in the Ridgemark area, that we would continue to occupy the Briggs Building?”
“That’s been tossed around,” Child said.

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