Hollister officials perplexed by rising facility costs

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Hollister schools are using their athletic facilities more often these days, cutting back on time available for city recreation. Here, the wrestling teams from Maze, Rancho San Justo and Spring Grove gathered at Maze on April 8 for a non-elimination tourn

Hollister officials are reexamining joint-use agreements with the local school district for athletic facilities after noticing the annual costs have jumped considerably over the years.
Council members at a special meeting Monday reviewed the five separate joint-use agreements, which expire in either 2021 or 2026 and come with 180-day cancellation notices, in light of annual costs increasing from about $13,000 in 1999 to $35,000 in the mid-2000s and all the way up to $180,000 in the most recently paid-out year, 2013-14, according to figures provided by Mike Chambless, the city’s assistant city manager in charge of recreation.
Council members griped about the escalating costs, unclear billing and inconsistencies in the five agreements, then agreed to continue questioning the district on aspects of the deals. There were no school officials in attendance Monday, and Superintendent Gary McIntire could not be reached immediately Tuesday.
After Chambless relayed to council members there were billing statements with unspecified charges, officials questioned how that could be.
“Aren’t they required to go through an audit?” Councilman Victor Gomez said. “I mean, they’re a public agency so why don’t they have that information?”
City Manager Bill Avera surmised that the district “wants to pursue regaining control” of those facilities, basically gymnasiums and fields, and how the schools have been increasing their own use of the facilities. That has left less time for city use at an increasingly higher price. Avera said part of the issue with the contractual questions is that the school district has “new folks trying to catch up” on the deals.
The school sites rented by the city include Calaveras, Cerra Vista, Gabilan Hills, Maze and Rancho.
“They’ve started to incorporate more afterschool sports,” Avera said. “Our time is getting limited, to say the least.”
Mayor Ignacio Velazquez suggested the question marks on the agreements comes back to communication.
“The problem is, nobody talks to each other,” he said.
Velazquez wanted the city to emphasize to the district how the facilities are “there for the community”—whether it’s under the city or school district jurisdiction.
“At the end of the day, those facilities are there for the public,” he said.
Chambless and Avera mentioned how the city is preparing a letter with specific questions on how certain costs got to their current point.

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