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Council brings on good news during annual city address

Claremont’s annual State of the City address, delivered in front of hundreds of guests at the Candlelight Pavilion Tuesday afternoon, can be summed up in a singular phrase offered by Mayor Larry Schroeder: “We’re doing well.”

Just how good was dished out in more explicit details moments later as each councilmember elivered highlights on 2012’s outstanding accomplishments while likewise discussing the year ahead.

As the city looks forward to exciting new prospects in town—a Stone Brewery expansion at the Depot or a second large grocery store retailer in south Claremont—residents and administrators exuded pride in the city’s direction.

“The city is moving forward,” Mr. Schroeder announced. “We are moving forward on economic development, infrastructure projects and planning for the future of our community.”

A $1.8 million surplus in the city’s finances as reported in July has allowed the city pursuit of dreamed expansions in the year ahead, Mayor Pro Tem Opanyi Nasiali added. Opportunities provided by the fiscal surplus include the hire of 2 new police officers and additional staffers, such as the hiring of Community and Human Services Director Kathleen Trepa in September, as well as capital projects to the tune of $395,000. Additionally, the city has set up a series of reserves, including the Equipment and Facility Revolving Reserve fund, for what Mr. Nasiali referred to as “rainy day” funds. The cities total reserves increased from 26.7 percent to 29 percent.

The surplus, and creation of a balanced 2-year budget taking the city through 2014, paved the way for city improvements, both those that have already taken place and others soon to come. Development highlights of 2012 include Super King Market, Peppertree Square renovations, new retail and live/work space in Village West and improvements to the Claremont Promenade.

“We have been very busy,” Mr. Nasiali said.

The council noted that renewed business synergy is reflective of the city fairing well through economic recovery. Last year’s 15 percent retail has fallen to 9 percent, according to Eric Westedt, the city’s consultant with CB Richard Ellis real estate company, who was introduced to speak by Councilmember Sam Pedroza.

“If you compare that to our neighboring markets, they are north of 10. Certain parts are 17 percent,” Mr. Westedt noted.

And Mr. Westedt expects the city’s retail vacancy to continue to decrease. Mr. Westedt announced that he and other city officials met with representatives of a major national retailer with potential expansion at Peppertree Square. He expects a deal to be finalized within the next several months.  Escondido-based microbrewery Stone Brewery Company is looking to expand into Los Angeles County and Mr. Westedt says it is his goal to bring them to Claremont.

“The attitude has changed,” Mr. Westedt said. “It used to be everybody was doom and gloom, and now it’s about, ‘Lets make things happen. It’s time to get things done again.’”

As the city continues to sail forward, thanks to excess funds and proper budgeting along the way, the council maintains its focus on economic development along with fiscal stability, sustainability and local water issues.

“These priorities are overarching concepts and issues that will be incorporated into the way staff and council conducts its businesses,” Councilmember Corey Calaycay said.

Councilmembers also addressed the recent rise in residential and vehicular burglaries, and the city’s plan to address these problems.

“Public safety is always a priority for the city and with the state’s Early Prisoner Release program, we anticipate an increase in property crime due to more criminals being released into our communities. In just the past few weeks we have seen an increase in residential and vehicular burglaries,” Mr. Calaycay said. “Our detectives are working on solving these crimes and have apprehended several suspects.

“Many of these burglaries are crimes of opportunity so we will look into additional resources to address these crimes and focus on education the community on crime prevention and the importance of reporting suspicious activity to prevent these burglaries,” Mr. Calaycay continued.

The city will continue to draw upon its community partnerships in hopes of matching, if not exceeding, this year’s success. According to Mr. Schroeder, “We have a lot to look forward to.”

—Beth Hartnett

news@claremont-courier.com

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