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Grant could help launch efforts for service district, new tax

The grant to find out more about creating a community services district could be  for $60,000 to $150,000. Here Hollister Little League players walk into the opening night event.

Board of supervisors approve application that would fund a feasibility study
Board of supervisors approve application that would fund a feasibility study

The San Benito County Board of Supervisors approved a grant application to the Health Trust that could provide the funding needed to find out what type of community services district might be supported by residents for parks and recreation and library services.

The agenda item was submitted by Janelle Cox, a management analyst who works with the county’s parks and recreation commission, who heard about the grant recently. The deadline to submit a proposal is April 30. The parks and recreation commissioners were also set to discuss the application at a Tuesday evening meeting.

“The Health Trust is pretty active in the community,” Cox said, in a phone interview the day before the board meeting. “They have other grant opportunities going on and they were looking at ways we could support health in San Benito County.”

Cox was put in touch with someone from the Health Trust and she suggested to the grant writer that the parks and recreation services could benefit from a grant for a feasibility study on a community services district.

“We are currently operating under several governing bodies for a small community,” Cox said. “We are looking at other ways of sustainability and I approached it with her.”

The Parks and Recreation Commission held a meeting on March 13 to broach the concept of a parks and recreation district or a community service district that could be governed and funded outside the city or county jurisdictions.

Cox said if the county were to receive the grant, it could be used to pay for community surveys to find out if there is community support for a district, what type of district residents want, how much residents would be willing to fund and more. The initial meeting discussed a district that would fund both parks and recreation and library services. Cox said she also talked with planning and building about the Local Agency Formation Commission, which would be involved in the creation of a district. It would also include the development of an implementation plan to begin creating a district.

“The first phase of this grant would cover the community engagement, survey, and legal support of what we need to really develop it,” Cox said.

The grant range is $60,000 to $150,000.

“This is a great opportunity for this community to begin the initial analysis – does it want an entity to oversee the development of parks and recreation in the

community,” Cox said. “It would be a different way of doing business.”

One community member commented on the creation of a parks and recreation services district, suggesting that the Board of Supervisors should be sure that it follows the legal requirements of approval. Marv Jones, a resident, mentioned a situation in Santa Clara County where an open space district was approved in a 50 percent plus 1 vote by a selection of the community. Later it was challenged as a district that would benefit the entire community that would require a two-thirds vote for approval. According to Jones, the county had to pay back to property owners the special assessment money it had collected over several years.

Supervisors Anthony Botelho and Jaime De La Cruz asked for reassurance that San Benito would not have the same issue.

Cox said that she could not provide any specific answers, but she said part of what the grant would pay for is legal support.

“As we go through different phases we will bring it forward to the board,” Cox said. “We will have legal counsel as part of the grant, if we get it. These questions will be answered as we go through the first phase.”

Supervisor Margie Barrios asked if the parks and recreation commissioners were connected with the San Benito High School District, which is also considering a bond measure.

“Are we with them or coordinating with them?”

Cox said that she has been in touch with SBHS Superintendent Stanley Rose on the issue.