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New year, new improvements to outdated Claremont city facilities

The city of Claremont is requesting state help as it seeks to make improvements at local parks.

With the Claremont City Council’s unanimous approval, city administrators move forward in applying for $260,000 from the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) in order to give a much-needed makeover to Wheeler Park.

Upgrades at the local park, a community mainstay since 1957, include a playground update, inclusion of an exercise area, an added walking path and new BBQ picnic facilities. In addition to those improvements, the council unanimously voted to include lighting improvements at Wheeler Park as a top priority.

While Kathleen Trepa, director of community and human services, did note that a consultant is currently surveying lighting needs at all of the city’s parks, Councilmember Sam Pedroza requested city officials not hold off on a the consultant’s findings in order to address lighting and safety concerns at the south Claremont park.

“We know lighting is already a concern for this park,” Mr. Pedroza said. “Although these amenities that we are talking about are fantastic, they are things the park does need, I think if we were to prioritize, lighting would be on the top of the list.”

Several Wheeler Park residents present at Tuesday’s meeting were in agreement.

“Once it hits dark, 7:30-8 o’clock, I won’t walk there even with my dog,” said Nicole Wirick, a homeowner who resides down the street from the park.

In addition to her request for security lighting, Ms. Wirick, a mother of three children who often play at Wheeler Park, added her support of the city’s request for new playground equipment. She hopes officials will consider rubber padding in placement of the sand that currently makes up the playground area.

“I’ve noticed a lot of debris, glass, cigarettes, things that are not good for children in the sand,” she said. “I think the rubberized surface will help prevent some of that.”

City officials expect the HCD award to be announced by June at which time the council will take a second look at how to prioritize the use of grant funding at Wheeler Park. In the meantime, residents are invited to add their input. A short survey regarding the park’s improvements may be accessed by visiting: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/RY5BL2W.

Claremont police get new wheels

The Claremont Police Department is getting an upgrade, if not at their home base at least on the road.

With the council's approval, officers will be getting 12 new police vehicles upfitted with new equipment and new sirens worth an estimated $590,788, though final quotes for the equipment are still being obtained. Funds will be taken from the Motor Fleet Replacement Reserve, currently at $954,511.

Four Chevrolet Tahoes and four Chevrolet Caprices will be purchased from Wondries Fleet Group of Alhambra. The replacement was deemed necessary by the city of Claremont's vehicle replacement schedule, which requires police vehicles to be replaced every four years, "ensuring the city is utilizing mechanically sound operating vehicles for the police department’s front-line emergency vehicles." While the cars may be relatively new, Chief of Police Paul Cooper notes that in some cases the equipment used inside the vehicles has been around for as many as 20 years.

“This is the first time...since 1995 that staff has had to look at interior and exterior equipment,” Mr. Cooper recognized. “I think we’ve gotten our money’s worth.”

Mr. Cooper will return to city council in February with a final quote on the vehicle equipment. The department for routine patrol will maintain the old police vehicles and other community uses.

City Manager receives salary increase

The council unanimously approved a 2.4 percent pay increase for one of the city’s top-earning officials.

City Manager Tony Ramos will receive an annual pay increase of $4,195, raising his salary from $203,985 to $208,900 effective immediately. In addition to the raise, the city manager will receive a one-time merit award of $10,992.25, according to the agreement.

All employees are eligible for annual merit increases after their yearly performance review. The council is tasked with approving the city manager’s contract and salary. This is the first salary raise for Mr. Ramos and the second merit increase since he was promoted to city manager in November 2011. Last January he was awarded a merit bonus of $10,048.50 and a payout of 2 weeks paid vacation at $7,729.66 for a total of $17,778.16 in addition to his regular salary.

#Salary increases for the city’s remaining departments heads — police chief, fire chief, public works director, parks director, library director and deputy city manager                          

Residents and councilmembers commended Mr. Ramos’s work in the city of Claremont, hallmarks of which have included the relinquishment of Foothill Boulevard, the renovation of Peppertree Square and the parking lot expansion at the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park.

“A few years ago we had a citizens committee...looking at our city budget years out, and at that point in time we were looking at a $3 million deficit,” Councilmember Corey Calaycay recognized. “Without any major tax or fee increases and with just some creative out of the box thinking, and still maintaining the morale of City Hall by being a good manager to his employees, we have managed to pull through this the last few years with over $1 million surplus.”

“He has agreed to a lot of compromises,” Mr. Calaycay continued, noting Mr. Ramos pays his full Public Employees Retirement System contribution upfront. “I have not voted for a pay raise for a city manager before, but I will be voting for this one.”

—Beth Hartnett

news@claremont-courier.com

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