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Committee picks up the pace on police station plans

The Police Facility Ad Hoc Committee pored over financing options and debated the need for a community room during the group’s third meeting at the Hughes Center Wednesday night.

The committee, led by chair Mark Sterba and anchored by ex-officios Councilmember Corey Calaycay and Police Commissioner Ed Reece, started the meeting off by amending their official charter to focus on cost reduction and the approval of an adequate “Plan B” based on the committee’s findings.

After the over two-hour meeting, the committee agreed to look more into a blended financial approach, with the basis being a general obligation (GO) bond with general fund money being used for smaller costs, according to Mr. Sterba.

The financial options presented by Finance Director Adam Pirrie outlined four mechanisms to fund a possible police station: a general fund purchase, general fund financing, a  GO bond and a parcel tax. Measure PS, which was voted down by residents in 2015, was a parcel tax.

The funding scenarios were presented using three figures—$20 million, $30 million and $40 million—with an assumed 30-year debt repayment schedule, according to Mr. Pirrie.

Under a GO bond, Claremont property owners would have to pay $137 annually on a $20 million bond, $205 annually on a $30 million bond and $274 annually on a $40 million bond, according to the staff report. Under a parcel tax, property owners would have to pay $122 annually on a $20 million bond, $183 annually on a $30 million bond and $244 on a $40 million bond.

If a measure will be brought to the ballot, both financing options require a two-thirds majority vote to pass.

Average contributions from businesses in the city range from $108,800 under a $20 million bond to $217,600 under a $40 million bond with the GO bond option, versus $34,400 under a $20 million bond to $68,800 under a $40 million using the parcel tax, according to the report. Mr. Pirrie stressed that the Claremont Colleges and nonprofits would be exempt from having to contribute to a GO bond. Under the parcel tax, college contribution would range from $34,500 under a $20 million bond to $69,100 under a $40 million bond.

The committee debated the pros and cons of each option, but the consensus was clear—the committee had to move away from a parcel tax due to the failure of PS. Measure PS, if passed, would have mandated a $286 annual parcel tax for 40 years.

Mr. Sterba floated the possibility of a sales tax, which was brought up by a number of residents during the PS campaign. “We don’t have a Costco, we don’t have a plaza, but we may still have access to some funding through a sales tax,” he said.

City Manager Tony Ramos said the staff didn’t bring an analysis back for a sales tax option because the sales tax base in Claremont is low. “I’d be thrilled this year if we get to $4 million,” he said.

“We have looked under the rocks, we have looked at all the options available and this is what you’re down to, one of these options or a partial sales tax option,” Mr. Ramos added. “Or a hybrid at least.”

Mr. Sterba said smaller costs, such as furniture, could be paid for by the city’s general fund as a way of telling voters that those “soft costs” won’t be part of the bond measure, an idea that was seconded by committee member Sally Seven.

In the end, the committee agreed to do more research into a blended funding option with a GO bond base, with general fund money being used for soft costs and a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) centering on a possible contribution from the colleges.

Committee member Stig Lanesskog, who serves as the CEO of the Claremont University Consortium, told the committee that a “more definitive financial commitment” from the Colleges might not be available by the next meeting.

Discussion on a multi-purpose community room and the 2002 police station space needs feasibility study was up next on the agenda. Claremont Police Captain Shelley Vander Veen presented the report on the room at the existing station, which is used as a multi-purpose facility for programs such as neighborhood watch, Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training and employee training.

According to Cpt. Vander Veen, the department’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC), which is currently at the mobile command post, as well as the alternate EOC in city hall’s Citrus Room are not properly prepared in the event of a major disaster.

The 2002 study noted that the current police station was inadequate and “needs virtually every major infrastructure element replaced.” If construction were to begin at the site, the density would be “very challenging” and there would be no suitable location for construction staging.

In fact, the firm hired to do the 2002 study, McClaren, Wilson & Lawrie, noted the city would save $2 million if they were to build at-grade—or on level ground—at a different location. The city cautioned in the report that the numbers are 14 years old and may have changed over time.

The committee debated the community room’s inclusion on a “nice to have or need to have” basis. Committee member Michael Shea was in favor of a community room at the police station, while committee member Jack Blair brought forth the idea of an off-site location somewhere in the city.

Mr. Sterba was focused on parking, relating a story from a former employer about opening up their community room, only to have parking be an issue. Committee member Paul Wheeler called for looking into how many officers are in the station and a community room at a time and “reverse-engineer it” to see how much parking is needed.

Mr. Ramos said the city has standards of looking into that subject, and will come back to the committee with the exact numbers.

At the end of the meeting, Mr. Ramos tried to get a handle on what the committee wanted to bring back to the next meeting, claiming the group didn’t offer any motions on specific ideas.

“If the chair or [Vice Chair Marcia Horowitz] could give me some direction, or if you want to meet after this meeting. What is it you really want us to bring back to [the next meeting]? And when do you want it back by so I can make sure and let you know whether that’s possible or not,” Mr. Ramos said. “Because it’s really not clear.”

Mr. Sterba said the committee wanted to look at the split financing, as well as information on local legislation about parking for community rooms and a “back-of-the-envelope” calculation—or ballpark figure—on the number of square feet required per sworn officer.

The next committee meeting will be on April 13 at the Hughes Center and will focus on real estate and location, as well as a partnership with the colleges.

—Matthew Bramlett

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