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Terms still unclear for Colleges’ donation to police station

The Claremont Colleges have pledged a one-time $750,000 donation to go towards the construction of the new police station, should Measure SC pass on June 5.

If the measure fails at the ballot box—meaning if it gets less than a two-thirds majority vote—the Colleges will not pay the sum.

The $750,000 figure isn’t exactly new information—it has been floating around for more than a year, and was first identified by Claremont Colleges Services  CEO Stig Lanesskog during the police facility ad hoc committee meetings in 2017.

“We think giving a contribution of $750,000 is the right thing to do for Measure SC,” Mr. Lanesskog said.

The donation amount was arrived at by the Claremont Colleges Services (CCS), formerly the Claremont University Consortium, based on a percentage of calls of service to the Claremont Police Department by the Colleges over a four-year period—three percent—brought up against the overall size of the $25 million general obligation bond.

When reached by phone Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Lanesskog said the donation was “the appropriate amount” and noted CCS also factored in what it already spends on its own Campus Safety department.

When asked if the donation represented an official endorsement of the measure, Mr. Lanesskog demurred, offering no official position from the Colleges.

“We have lots of faculty or staff who live in the city and they are free to vote as they would like to on the measure,” he said. “We’re pleased to provide these dollars if it is passed.”

Jay Wierenga, communications director for the Fair Political Practices Commission, said like all nonprofits, the Claremont Colleges can make donations of any kind.

“Nonprofits can donate to causes they believe in and to political campaigns as long as there is proper reporting,” Mr. Wierenga said.

This isn’t the first time the Colleges have pledged toward a police station plan. In 2015, the Colleges pledged a one-time donation of $1 million, at the behest of the city, toward Measure PS if it passed. The measure, a $50 million parcel tax that was Claremont’s first attempt at financing a new police station, failed with voters.

This year’s contribution was officially announced in a May 3 joint press release between the city and the Colleges. But the contribution amount was first identified in a letter from Mr. Lanesskog to Mayor Opanyi Nasiali on April 16.

In that letter, Mr. Lanesskog outlined that the donation was contingent on two items—that the measure passes on a two-thirds or more vote, and “that all funds from this contribution are only used for new technology and communication systems for the police station.”

The terms set by CCS is to help the city avoid longterm financing for technology and items that could become obsolete as time passes. The bond also has a $1.5 million contribution from the city’s general fund to be used toward fixtures, furniture and equipment.

Mr. Lanesskog said that contingency was based on what would help the relationship between the Claremont Police Department and the Colleges’ own security force.

“We were thinking of elements of the project that would have the broadest benefit, not only for the community, but for the Colleges as we leverage those with our own campus safety,” he said.

Another part of the April 16 letter is the timeline for how the amount would be paid if the measure passes. The May 3 press release noted a one-time donation, but Mr. Lanesskog initially outlined the amount would be “paid over a period of time to be determined.”

City spokesperson Bevin Handel said that City Manager Tara Schultz had talked to Mr. Lanesskog and expressed the city’s need for a single payment to cover costs upfront.

“The Colleges understand the need for the money up front to pay for construction costs and purchases,” Ms. Handel said.

Mr. Lanesskog said the specific date for the contribution has not been set.

“It will be paid over a time to be determined,”?Mr. Lanesskog said. “The term ‘one time’ is just saying that this is a specific scenario that we’re talking to the city about—that we will over time give $750,000 to this project if it is approved.”

Betty Crocker, co-chair of Partners for a Safe Claremont, the proponents of Measure SC, called the contribution “fantastic.”

“They are significant stakeholders and we appreciate their investment,” she said.

When asked to respond to concerns that the amount is too low, Ms. Crocker called for “unity, not division,” between those who accept the payment and those who want more. She also said the Colleges would be paying just over $16,000 per year into the general obligation bond through residential properties that they own within the city.

“When somebody gives $750,000 to help out, it’s important that we say thank you,” she said. “They didn’t have to give us any money; it could be zero dollars.”

—Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com