While 2023 was an eventful year for San Benito County, I am particularly excited about three endeavors coming in 2024 that will undoubtedly improve the quality of life in our community.
Those efforts include the county hitting its stride with $28 million in unincorporated road repaving projects, construction of the new Riverview Regional Park, and a major expansion to the San Benito County Free Library.
I am especially proud of these areas of progress because I played a key role in moving them forward in my first three years as District 2 supervisor, and none of them will require any new taxes for residents.
Let’s start with the biggest step forward, the long-needed program of road repaving projects. I followed through on my campaign promise by proposing this slate of projects and gained support from fellow supervisors in 2022. The county cobbled together just about all available discretionary funds, with the exception of maintaining a responsible reserve in the event of emergencies, to start the daunting task of catching up on decades of deferred roadwork.
Over the next five years, residents will see plenty of road improvements such as repaving projects for San Juan Highway, Union Road, Salinas Road, San Juan Canyon Road, Highway 156 backroads, Seely Avenue, Wright Road, Fairview Road, Shore Road, Frazier Lake Road and more.
These projects should be just the start of San Benito County prioritizing consistent roadwork, and I will continue to push for more funding toward the roads going forward.
Locals will see plenty of construction outside of the roads, too, with the Regional Park and library expansion breaking ground in 2024.
While there had been some interest from library advocates to pursue a second library that could have cost up to $60 million, I advocated for a much less expensive expansion to the existing Fifth Street facility. That is because the county simply cannot afford a projected $60 million second library, and taxpayers are all bonded out due to an array of other past capital projects and talk of a second high school in Hollister.
With the help of $10 million in state grant dollars and federal pandemic relief funds, the county general fund is set to contribute a relatively affordable $2.5 million in reserve funds toward the project. It took outside-the-box thinking and collaboration with the Friends of the San Benito County Library to find this solution that is affordable and will boost library resources in a meaningful way. Meanwhile, construction is set to break ground in the fall of this year.
It also took creative thinking to finally move ahead on the Regional Park, and that project will break ground this summer. When I joined the board in 2021, I was appointed to an ad hoc committee assigned to get over a big hurdle in stalled negotiations with the San Benito High School District over needed land at San Benito Street and River Parkway.
Within months, those talks culminated in a 99-year lease with the school district—which will invariably become outright ownership for the county—and the long-awaited park project moving forward.
That park will become a community gem and tourist attraction. The first phase will include such amenities as sports fields, playgrounds, an amphitheater, pickleball courts, basketball courts, fitness stations, cross-country trails, a disc golf course, botanical gardens, an astronomy zone and a bicycle pump track. The county will fund the work largely with existing park impact funds and state grant dollars.
There are a lot of other important endeavors happening in 2024, but these three areas of positive progress are undoubtedly monumental signs that we are moving forward in the right direction.
Kollin Kosmicki is the District 2 Supervisor for San Benito County.