Battling bad water in the city

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Two local forces have combined to fight one of San Benito
County’s most diabolical villains
– bad water.
Two local forces have combined to fight one of San Benito County’s most diabolical villains – bad water.

A Joint Powers Agreement between the City of Hollister and the Sunnyslope County Water District, approved by City Council at Monday’s meeting, creates a new agency to oversee the LESSALT water treatment facility.

LESSALT’s ceremonial opening takes place at 2 p.m. Wednesday at the corner of Sunnyslope and Fairview roads.

Two representatives from Council and two from the water district will make up the four-member agency. The governing board will vote on policy implementation and an annual budget for the facility.

Utilities Manager Jim Perrine delivered the city’s report to Council, which included the following designations for each jurisdiction:

– Sunnyslope must provide a manager and financial officer, while the city must provide a secretary and clerk.

“It’s a transfer of ownership to the new JPA,” said Perrine, who called the agreement “mutually supportive.”

The LESSALT plant is designed to improve the quality of water in a city historically plagued by water with a high salt content. City Engineer Steve Wittry said the plant will lower the total dissolved solids – essentially salts – by one-third.

Water improvement goals of the Lessalt plant are associated with guidelines set forth two years ago by the state’s Regional Water Quality Control Board and the city’s overall goal of improving potable water and wastewater.

Perrine said the JPA merely formalizes past agreements before the plant’s opening.

In other business:

– City Council passed a resolution authorizing a water conservation program that includes a 50 percent to 60 percent increase in toilet replacements, both commercial and residential.

The project is one of three supplemental environmental projects required by the RWQCB under the administrative civil liabilities fine, which stems from the city’s 15-million gallon sewage spill May 4.

“It’s one of the requirements,” Perrine said to Council.

The $126,000 project, which adds to the normal 400 to 500 replacements annually, was required to be in place by Dec. 6. If the city had failed, it would have faced an additional fine of $126,000.

– Council passed a resolution authorizing the use of Mexican Consulates as acceptable identification cards.

Law enforcement officials expressed concern about identifying individuals in a more timely manner and also about the reluctance from Mexican Nationals to cooperate because they may be undocumented. It would also allow those people more accessibility to local services, but no special privileges, according to staff reports.

– Council ratified Mayor Tony LoBue’s appointments to the Airport Advisory Commission. Helen Ross and Raymond Creech received the appointments.

Creech replaces Gerry Gabe, who also submitted an application for another two-year term. Five members make up the board, which meets once a month to discuss airport issues.

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