It’s important to clarify misinformation about the City of Hollister suddenly giving notice to terminate fire service contracts with the county and San Juan Bautista. Here are the facts: 

Above all, the City of Hollister presented the current contract to the county and San Juan Bautista to start in 2019. The contract runs through 2025, but now current Hollister leadership is reneging on that contract, putting our community in danger. 

As for the history, San Benito County and San Juan Bautista’s initial contracts with Hollister for fire service started about a decade ago. At the time, Hollister had major budget problems and was preparing to lay off firefighters on an already barebones staff. The county and San Juan contracts prevented devastating layoffs and allowed the Hollister Fire Department to actually add more fire personnel, taking the total to about 25 fire department employees at the time. 

The 2019 contract extension called for the county to pay $1.85 million in 2019 with annual cost escalators taking the county’s share to $2.31 million in 2025, and the fire department was very pleased with the renewal and its terms.

On top of agreed-upon fixed costs from the county, the current contract has various requirements that include a mandate for the Hollister fire chief to present biannual reports to the Board of Supervisors and seek guidance on staffing and the budget. Contrary to the contract’s mandate, the city has not sought guidance from the county board on fire department staffing or budget considerations since I joined the board in January 2021. 

With a year and a half left on the current contract, the bottom line is that the majority of Hollister City Council members who were responsible for financial mismanagement of the city are reneging on these fire contracts. 

They are using public safety as a bargaining chip and trying to steer the responsibility for their gross mismanagement toward the county. This is equivalent to a contractor giving you a fixed price to remodel your home, and then coming back 90% of the way through the contract and demanding to double the price. 

While we had been in good-faith talks before this happened on the formation of a Fire Protection District (new development would fund cost increases into the future), the city has suddenly pulled this maneuver to terminate the contract to try and force the hands of the county and San Juan. 

It is an underhanded political tactic on the part of city leaders who are supposed to be partners. Frankly, I am making it clear as one county supervisor: The county will not play political games when it comes to fire services, and I call upon the community to demand that Hollister leaders stand behind this contractual agreement. 

As a county without resources to hand over millions of dollars to offset the city’s financial mismanagement, we have only one choice at this point: Explore all options for future fire services, which could include contracting with another agency like Cal Fire, as the county had in the past. 

I, for one, will not participate in this City of Hollister attempt to extort money from the county and San Juan to pay for Hollister’s mismanagement. A contract is a contract, and Hollister leadership doesn’t seem to care about commitments. 

Kollin Kosmicki

San Benito County Supervisor, District 2

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