Life in San Martin . . . with Trina Hineser: San Martin residents unite to have a voice in decisions that affect rural town
Published in the April 12 – April 25, 2017 issue of Morgan Hill Life
By Trina Hineser
As I sit down to write this April’s column, I am fortunate to be visiting the lovely and enchanting town of Bonita Springs in Lee County, Florida. Its nickname is “Gateway to the Gulf.” Its motto, “Small Town Charm. Big Bright Future,” makes me think of San Martin and how our own small community’s charm also has a big bright future. This in large part is because of the residents who live here and the encouragement from so many supporters who all love the rural atmosphere of our unique and pastoral community.
The glorious aromas of spring are in the air. Blooming jasmine, the florals of various fruit trees, and of course the fresh scent that follows a cleansing rain. All these conspire to remind me that spring has officially begun. So, what does spring offer us? Well in the words of well-known Florida Advocate Jack Levine, spring offers “A celebration of Easter and Passover which are symbolic of what we hold most dear. Easter gives us the spiritual message of the power to overcome suffering … The saga of Passover focuses on freedom from oppression and the importance of faith and persistence in the face of adversity.”
It is interesting to me that no matter where you go in the world, you can see similarities in the struggles that small towns like San Martin face. Certainly all of us have encountered adversity at one point or another in our lives. Similarly, San Martin has faced adversity over the years. This includes events like the perchlorate contamination to wells and efforts to incorporate. However, these events brought individuals together, and through community efforts, we continue to find ways to preserve the rural integrity of our idyllic environment.
In March, SMNA was pleased to host a community event on the History of San Martin. Speaker Donna Brodsky took us back in time with stories of how San Martin was formed, and she shared historical information including who the settlers were, and why they decided to stay. Some of our local “old-timers” (residents who’ve lived here for 40-plus years) also told stories that had the crowd in stitches. It was a great turn-out of local residents. And we extend a heartfelt thank you to SMNA Board of Director Sharon Luna and her cohort, Barbara Rawson, for the ingenuity in visualizing and implementing such a great event.
Communications & Public Policy Consultant Jack Levine makes these additional comments regarding spring: “Transitions are life’s crossroads. We are rooted in personal experiences and make important choices as we move forward… Who among us would not wish for more power to make decisions … but know we have limited capacity to do so. We can hope for the best, but must be prepared to respond to whatever events come our way.”
For San Martin, one decision many wish we could have been able to make was in regards to the installation of Morgan Hill’s sewage bypass system, or “trunk line,” which runs directly through San Martin and down to a waste location in Gilroy. Heavy rains this winter, along with Morgan Hill’s inadequate and outdated sewer pipes, resulted in three sewage spills within San Martin. Residents on Harding and Cox avenues were directly affected. One of the three spillages occurred in January, consisting of more than 200,000 gallons of raw sewage that flooded into properties, onto San Martin roads, and, most concerning, into Llagas Creek. Potential fines ranging as high as $3.2 million could be assessed against Morgan Hill.
The Morgan Hill sewage plant crew did their best to address the issue during the time of the spill, but the leaks were too many. As a result, there was standing sewage for several days, even after the rains had subsided. While Morgan Hill did follow their city protocol and procedures, that did not include notifying the residents of San Martin.
What I want to focus on and share with the community is that in situations like this we must find immediate solutions to address problems — and work together. This is part of SMNA’s mission, vision and purpose. Our request for Morgan Hill to hold a meeting within 10 days regarding the sewage spill for the affected residents, and anyone who had expressed an interest was honored. Additional requests that affected residents’ wells be tested, free of charge by Morgan Hill, was also agreed to. With a few adjustments, Morgan Hill now has protocols and procedures in place to be able to work more closely with San Martin, and notify residents when things like this occur.
As we move through spring, look for those transitional moments and experiences that may surface. And though San Martin will continue to face adversity, and we might not have the decision-making power we’d like, we can hope for the best. We can also be prepared for what comes our way, and know that, through unity, we have the ability to protect what is dear to us: our unique and pastoral community environment, both in nature and in our hearts.
Trina Hineser is the president of the San Martin Neighborhood Alliance. She wrote this column for Morgan Hill Life. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.