CDF gets lease extension

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California Department of Forestry employees prepared planes for last year’s Croy Fire at the CDF Air Attack Base at the Hollister Airport. Under the new lease with the city, the base will remain at the airport for the next five years.

The City Council approved a five-year extension Monday on its
expiring lease agreement with the California Department of Forestry
and Fire Protection at the Hollister Airport.
With the current contract expiring April 20, the two sides began
negotiations in December. They finalized the contract about two
weeks ago, extending the most recent lease that began in 1988.
The City Council approved a five-year extension Monday on its expiring lease agreement with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection at the Hollister Airport.

With the current contract expiring April 20, the two sides began negotiations in December. They finalized the contract about two weeks ago, extending the most recent lease that began in 1988.

Public Works Director Clint Quilter attributed the seemingly long length of that negotiating period to an array of time–consuming sewage projects for the department.

The extension includes several changes, such as an increase in rent for the state–operated agency from $1,300 per month to $1,455. The deal does not relate to recently halted negotiations between the city and the CDF for a larger, modernized 10–acre base at the west end of the airport, according to officials. The current base is two acres and is located at the airport’s south end.

The CDF has backed off talks with the city for the expanded base because of the state budget crisis, according to city officials.

“It gives them five years and allows them time to decide what to do,” Quilter said.

The California Department of General Services negotiated on behalf of the CDF. Quilter and Deputy Director of Public Works Lawrence Jackson represented the city.

Jackson said he is satisfied with the short-term lease extension, although he expressed less certainty about the CDF’s potential to eventually build the new base.

“That’s really up to them,” he said. “The State of California has a lot of questions with the budget.”

Reno DiTullio, CDF Fire Chief of San Benito and Monterey counties, said the CDF is “absolutely” satisfied with the short-term extension. He also said it is CDF’s intent to stay in Hollister beyond that extension.

The city and the CDF began negotiating in 1997 for the new base, but the two sides have considerably differed on the value of the land. DiTullio said the California Department of Finance is examining alternatives for less-expensive land elsewhere.

The lease extension also includes the following: a clause that adjusts the monthly rent according to changes in the Consumer Price Index, a new parking agreement for CDF vehicles and an environmental assessment of possible hazardous waste in a “CDF leach collection pond.”

The Hollister Airport has been home to the CDF Hollister Air Base since July 1962 because of the airport’s strategic location in the region. The CDF is made up of 21 units that respond to an average of 6,400 wildfires per year. The agency maintains a $600 million budget for the current year, and the base is staffed year-round.

The Air Attack base houses two tanker planes, which can drop fire retardant, and one reconnaissance plane, which constantly monitors fire-prone areas. The local base played a major role in dousing Morgan Hill’s 3,127-acre Croy Fire in late September. The local CDF also assists local fire departments when needed.

City officials widely support the CDF’s residence in Hollister beyond the five–year extension, including Fire Chief Bill Garringer. He said if the CDF moved to the Central Valley, there would be additional fire-induced loss of property in the future.

Councilman Robert Scattini, who served on the Airport Advisory Commission for 19 years, called the CDF’s residence in Hollister “very important” for both economic and safety reasons.

“They buy gas, they buy food, they’re here all the time,” Scattini said. “And from the safety point of view for surrounding areas, they’re centrally located.”

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