City Manager Bill Avera reported on the 2016 Hollister Motorcycle Rally at this week’s city council meeting and prompted concern from council members about staff costs and vendor fees.
Avera at Monday’s meeting reported a “relatively successful” rally, for which Hollister issued 95 business licenses and 94 building permits. But he also opened the door for a conversation about true city employee costs and whether $39 fees charged to vendors is enough to cover costs.
The Hollister Independence Rally, which celebrates the city’s motorcycle history, has taken place in July the past three years after a period of on-again, off-again gatherings. The city commissions a promoter, which pays for security and other costs, to organize the event.
Councilman Karson Klauer on Monday asked when the council would see figures on tax revenue, and Avera replied.
“You will likely never find out exactly what the tax revenue is,” Avera said. “You can get categories of revenue from the (state) Board of Equalization, but you will not be able to necessarily grab a person by their business SKU.”
Avera explained that this is due to a confidentiality clause.
The conversation diverged into Klauer asking if the city is ready to start tracking the internal costs of the motorcycle rally.
“I’m not talking dollars. I’m talking time,” Klauer said. “I don’t know how I’m going to be able to vote in September if I don’t know how much tax revenue [the rally] brought in.”
“I know that several times a year, all of the most well-paid people who work in the city meet on this. I know the police department spends almost a month on it before the rally. That costs the citizens money.”
Police Chief David Westrick said he keeps a roster of who attends the meetings and the number of hours spent at them. He also tries to keep track of when he does rally-related work in his office.
Klauer said that data would be good to have when next year’s rally is over.
“It would be nice to know what those numbers are,” he said. “That way the next year, whoever’s on the council can say, ‘You know what? We’re making a decision that we have facts on.’ And we still don’t have facts on this.”
Councilmembers Mickie Solorio Luna and Victor Gomez shared Klauer’s concerns.
“When I was an employee of the City of Hollister, I used to track those numbers,” Luna said of her time in the finance department. “We had a spreadsheet and knew what every department and every hour that was spent on the rally. We had an estimate; we had the numbers that were there. So I’m just wondering, why isn’t it done know? It can be done.”
Avera responded to her concern.
“If you wanted to know what all the yard guys were spending, all their time there and they’re supposed to set up Tuesday night, Wednesday night, Thursday night, Friday night, and come back on Sunday to clean up. We have all that information,” Avera said. “What you don’t have is my time writing a report or having a conversation. You probably don’t have Dave’s hour he spends on the phone doing research on a motorcycle gang or whatever as it relates to the rally.”
Mayor Ignacio Velazquez asked Avera about the business licensing fee for vendors.
“I pointed out last year part of the reason why we end up in this conversation every year, if we just look at our own books it tells us that those businesses that aren’t here for the entire year, that license fee is $250,” Velazquez said. “And for whatever reason we keep going back and saying, ‘We’ll give it to you for thirty-something dollars.’”
Avera explained that because vendors at the local air show and farmers market pay a $39 license fee, vendors at the motorcycle rally ask to pay the same price.
“The farmers market is a good example where we spend a lot of money setting up and tearing down,” Avera said. “We also give them a break on their business licenses. I want to make sure that when folks come in and say, ‘Okay, we’re not coming back to the farmers market because your costs are outrageous for doing business here,’
“I want the council to understand that’s what’s going to happen because that’s what has happened. We went through that. That’s why it’s down to $39.”
Local resident Marty Richman had the final word of the night in public comment.
“After all these years we have to be able to at least make a decent estimate at what it costs us to run the rally,” Richman said. “I cannot believe we cannot do that.”