An accident with reported injuries occurred Feb. 19 at Sunnyslope and Valley View roads.
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The mayor Tuesday said the city is adding language to the draft ordinance proposing to charge fees for some fire department responses that would narrowly define the negligence factor used to determine when someone is billed.
Shortly after the council April 20 approved the first reading of an ordinance that would charge residents for some fire department responses, Mayor Ignacio Velazquez admitted to the Free Lance the legislation lacked clarity.
Specifically, while city officials initially said residents would have to be negligent in order to receive a bill for services, the draft ordinance approved April 20 excluded any mention of that provision. It meant the city, in theory, could charge everyday residents thousands of dollars for responses to routine car accidents or water spills.
Council members voted 3-2 on the initial draft ordinance, with Councilmen Victor Gomez and Karson Klauer dissenting. Councilwoman Mickie Luna and Councilman Ray Friend supported it with the mayor.
Valezquez on Tuesday said city officials, in holding off on moving forward with the ordinance, wanted to define exactly what negligence means when it comes to being charged for fire responses.
“Again, the intent was just to go after those that are negligent that are causing issues by reckless behavior,” Velazquez said. “That’s who we’re going after and that’s it.”
He said the city is not looking to charge residents for medical calls or basic responses.
“We’re going to make sure it’s absolutely clear,” he said. 
Council members Monday agreed to put off taking anymore steps on the previously OK’d ordinance. City Manager Bill Avera reported that with the changes to language, the council would likely have to reconsider a new draft ordinance at their May 18 meeting.
In that new ordinance, the mayor said he wants staff officials to lay out specifically which types of cases would include negligence. With vehicle accidents, for instance, Velazquez said it would have to be gross negligence. Routine traffic accidents would be excluded, he said.
“People won’t be charged, either,” he said. “If somebody’s driving drunk, racing down the street, on the phone, racing across a red light—those types of things.”
He said city officials also plan to work with county and San Juan Bautista officials to make sure they’re on board as well.
“We pretty much have to start over to make sure that’s clear,” he said.
With an approval, the city had planned to hire a consultant to manage the billing that would take a 20 percent cut from the new revenue source. The city is unsure how much money the fees might generate at a time when Hollister has experienced a spike in overtime costs for the police and fire departments.
The proposed fees are broken down by response categories that include motor vehicle incidents, hazardous materials, false alarms, fire investigations, fires, water incidents and the fire chief’s involvement.
The most common “billing level” expected would be for a hazardous materials assessment at motor vehicle accidents, with a “Level 1” cost of $435 up to a “Level 5” response involving a helicopter, with a charge of $2,200.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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