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Thorny issues on Claremont council agenda Tuesday

Two ongoing hot button topics for the city of Claremont—police unions and the Wilderness Park—are on the agenda for Claremont City Council Tuesday night, May 8. The discussion begins at 6:30 p.m.

After months of back and forth debate, impasse and failed contracts, the council will meet to approve a memorandum of understanding with the Claremont Police Officers Association (CPOA). The potential approval comes nearly 6 months after other employee unions were able to make an agreement.

Originally proposed the same contract as other employee groups, which would have the officers paying their full Public Retirement System contribution in 3 years time, police repeatedly rejected the offer because of the low Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA). Because of past pay reductions and the intensity of their jobs, police felt a higher COLA was warranted.

Last month, after a long impasse, the city presented the police with an offer that included receiving a COLA slightly higher than what was given to other employee groups. However, in an unexpected turn for CPOA President Detective Rick Varney and members of the negotiating team, the CPOA general membership rejected the contract by one vote, 19 to 18.  

Another viable alternative was presented to the CPOA by the city, this time with a work-related equipment reimbursement of up to $400 annually for 40 employees. The cost is estimated at $16,000 over the period of the contract. CPOA members approved the new offer 26 to 4 in a vote finalized Wednesday morning, according to Det. Varney.

“We’re ready to move on,” he said.

The final say rests with the council, who will vote on whether or not to approve the memorandum of understanding. According to the report, the proposed CPOA contract will cost the city $435,352 with a total savings projected at $746,914. Savings were calculated based on employees taking over the responsibility of paying the PERS, previously paid for by the city.

If the CPOA contract is approved, the Claremont Police Management Association will be the only Claremont employee group without an agreed-upon contract.

In addition to the CPOA contract, the city council will once again revisit the issue of expanding parking at the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park. In late March the Claremont City Council approved the construction of a new lot near the Wilderness Park entrance on North Mills Avenue.

The council is now being asked to vote on expanded parking to be constructed on the west side of Mills Avenue—north of the fire station and south of Mt. Baldy Road. The lot would hold an estimated 46 additional parking spaces and would be subject to the same paid parking policy implemented with the previous lot: $3 a day for both Claremont residents and nonresidents with the option of a $50 annual pass.

Other items being reviewed by the council include whether or not to maintain the Community and Human Services decision to leave the name of Cahuilla Park as it is written, as well as the relinquishing agreement with Caltrans for ownership of Claremont’s portion of Foothill Boulevard. Labor negotiations with the CPOA and CPMA will take place in closed session prior to the general meeting, which is open to the public.

Closed session begins at 5:15 p.m. with a brief period for public comment beforehand. The council will reconvene for the regular open session at 6:30 p.m. The full meeting agenda can be accessed on the city’s website at www.ci.claremont.ca.us.

—Beth Hartnett

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