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County to survey locals on special district

Veterans Memorial Park

San Benito County supervisors approved two contracts last Tuesday with agencies that will guide the community through the first phase of creating a special district to support parks, recreation and library services.

“We’ve struggled with allocating reduced general fund (dollars,)” said Janelle Cox, a management analyst with the county who works with the Parks and Recreation commissioners. “We are looking at new ways to do business.”

County officials such as those in parks and public works are working to find ways to not only cut costs to fill a $5.4 million shortfall in the general fund budget, but also to raise revenue to pay for less essential services.

Cox said an advisory committee has been established to look at the formation of a special district that would levy an assessment fee and would need to be approved by property owners. The county received a grant for $61,500 from the Health Trust to complete the feasibility analysis for the establishment of a district that would support parks, recreation and library services.

The first contract is with Fairbank, Maslin, Maulin, Metz and Associates to do survey research and polling. The consultants will create and conduct polls to find out if there is community support for such a special district, what services residents want to have it support and how much they are willing to pay for the services. The contract is for $20,200.

The second contract with Meyers Nave will offer legal services pertaining to the formation of a special district. The contract is for $24,575. Consultants from Meyers Nave led a community workshop on special districts hosted by the county parks and recreation commissioners in March. At that meeting, it was suggested that a special district could fund the cost of maintaining parks and library services.

Cox said the goal is to conduct polls and surveys in November, probably after the general election, and then return data to the county supervisors in December for instruction on how to proceed.

“Kudos to you and the parks and recreation staff for being so diligent to go after the grant that was needed,” said Supervisors Margie Barrios. “This is moving a lot faster at this point. I’m proud of what you have done.”

Supervisor Jerry Muenzer commented on how many residents spoke out about saving library services during the budget hearing process completed in July.

“This is a way the community can show that support,” he said. “I want to see the library and parks and recreation sustained over the long term.”

The discussion of the contracts came on the heels of a presentation about the river parkway project. Adam Goldstone, a project manger from the county’s public works department, and Alison Hobbs, a project manager with SSA Landscape Architects, Inc., shared with county supervisors the findings of field studies along the river corridor from San Juan Bautista to the County Historical Park in Tres Pinos.

Goldstone said the consultants have been working with a community advisory committee and hosted a community workshop Aug. 1.

“We will start work on the focus area – the few-mile stretch between Hospital Road and Fourth Street,” said Goldstone, of the initial stretch of the parkway to be developed.

The stretch of the river parkway through Hollister is planned to connect to a regional parkway that is expected to be built on land south of San Benito High School. A community workshop on the regional parkway will be held in September.

“I’m really excited,” Barrios said. “It’s so broad, so bold, so beautiful. It will be a tremendous asset to the community. I’m looking forward to meeting all the deadlines and having it done in my lifetime.”