A fire truck is shown here.

The San Benito County Board of Supervisors is set to vote Tuesday on whether to approve a contract with the City of Hollister to provide fire protection services for the county.

The vote will happen at a 6 p.m. special meeting in order to allow residents a chance to speak on the topic before the vote.

The term of the contract would be July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2015 at an amount not to exceed $3,396,018. That comes to an estimate of $1.13 million annually – or about 3 percent of the county’s general fund.

In advance of Tuesday’s meeting, Hollister City Council members were expected to consider a resolution at Monday’s 6:30 p.m. meeting at Hollister City Hall authorizing execution of the same contract with the county, with the vote taking place after the Free Lance deadline.

The supervisors’ meeting was moved from the morning session to an evening session at the request of Supervisor Jerry Muenzer, made at last week’s county board meeting.

“The fire committee met to look at the first draft of the contract, but there is one thing we need to do,” he said. “We have to have an actual workshop, preferably in the evening, to receive comment on the fire contract. We are not doing all we should if we do not have a workshop. I just feel the public needs an opportunity to address questions to us and staff.”

Supervisor Robert Rivas opposed the idea of a workshop at the recent board meeting, stating at the time that with supervisors set to take a vote on the contract a week later, they would not have time for the workshop. He then said he did not want to delay the vote, but perhaps they could have an evening meeting that would allow residents to comment before the vote.

Supervisor Margie Barrios, on the other hand, supported the special workshop.

“We do need to give the public an opportunity to come before the board in the evening,” said Supervisor Margie Barrios, of the sometimes contentious issue the supervisors have been discussing for several months of ending fire protection for the county with Calfire and instead contracting with the city of Hollister’s fire department.

The supervisors will meet in a morning session to discuss budget issues, reconvening at 6 p.m. to discuss the fire contract.

It will be the latest in a series of tense public meetings, at which Calfire’s area Chief Rick Hutchinson has argued in favor of continuing the arrangement with the state – at a similar cost to the city deal.

Hutchinson said Calfire’s perspective has “never been about hanging onto” the nearly 60-year arrangement with San Benito County.

“What we have stated all along is, it’s not critical that the county or the city be with Calfire or not be with Calfire,” Hutchinson said Monday. “It’s what is best for the county as a whole.”

Hutchinson stressed that it is best to have a resolution complete so each side can make necessary adjustments before the current Calfire contract expires at the end of the fiscal year June 30.

“The sooner we can get this addressed and pointing in a direction again, it will be good for everyone,” he said.

Editor Kollin Kosmicki contributed to this report.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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