The Hollister City Council voted Aug. 7 to partner with Sunnyslope Water District and approve wastewater service for the future Gavilan College site, Fairview Corners subdivision and Cielo Vista. 

The city’s Domestic Wastewater Treatment Plant would take in the additional wastewater produced by these connections, according to city officials. The decision was made as constituents and protestors filled the seats of council chambers to show their disapproval of the service expansion.

City staff made a presentation to the council detailing plans for the potential wastewater connections that would serve the Gavilan College on Fairview Road and be administered by Sunnyslope Water District. Connecting to Gavilan would also require Fairview Corners and its 189 units to receive sewer and water services. 

Cielo Vista is dealing with a failing septic tank system that would cost more than $5 million to repair, whereas hooking up to the city’s treatment plant would only cost around $1 million, according to city staff.

In 2019, the City of Hollister made an agreement with the developers of the Gavilan site to provide sewer service to the new campus project that broke ground earlier this year. As part of that agreement, Gavilan partnered with the adjacent Fairview Corners subdivision, which will lower the cost of infrastructure upgrades for the college. The new campus is projected to serve around 1,100 students and will include 70 on-campus dwellings and 35,000 square feet of commercial retail space, according to the presentation. 

Council member Rolan Resendiz was the sole dissenter in the council’s decision to expand services and was involved in a fiery back and forth with Mayor Mia Casey and council member Dolores Morales. Resendiz accused Casey and Morales of receiving campaign funds from developers, an accusation he has made at previous council meetings.

He called on both Casey and Morales to recuse themselves from the matter over campaign contributions they received from local developers Anderson Homes and Bill Lee. Casey has reportedly returned these donations. At one point, Morales addressed the attendees in Spanish and defended herself against Resendiz’s allegations.

Council member Rick Perez chimed in and asked his colleagues to drop the discussion.

“The only ones that can recuse themselves is gonna be them,” Perez said.

The matter continued among shouts from a raucous crowd and the debate devolved to the point of a recess having to be called. Eventually, the item made it to a vote after a public comment period and approved pending review from the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO).

The Free Lance contacted Resendiz and Casey this week via phone and asked for comment on the tense Aug. 7 meeting.

Resendiz repeated his allegations that there is a conflict of interest at play for Casey and Morales and that they are friendly to unchecked development in Hollister.

“It’s pretty obvious that they’re now developing infrastructure to build more homes and […] the taxed citizens of Hollister are going to have to bear the cost of that,” Resendiz said.

Resendiz clarified that he is not opposed to Gavilan College getting connected to the city’s wastewater treatment plant but does not want that fact to open the door for unfettered residential development. 

Casey said that the city made agreements with Gavilan to provide sewer service and that 

commitment needs to be acted on. She added that she came into the city council after these agreements were made and is trying to move them forward to avoid legal ramifications. 

“I don’t want the city being sued,” Casey said.

In response to Resendiz’s allegations that she is in a conflict of interest, Casey refuted the accusations and said that Resendiz attacks council members with different opinions to his. 

“It’s what he does to discredit other voices,” Casey said.

She believes that the protestors at the Aug. 7 meeting and other residents that oppose the sewer expansion projects have been misled by local political and environmental groups. Casey said that the majority of the city council listens to the public on these issues and takes their concerns into account.

“This is just a game that’s played, unfortunately,” Casey said. 

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