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City to explore costs for new police facility

UPDATED: As the city moves forward with a new multi-million dollar proposal for the purchase of Claremont's water system, the city also proceeds on another long-term council priority and expected 7-digit expenditure, the construction of a new police facility.

The council unanimously directed staff to work with consultants on creating a detailed cost forecast for a new police station with the goal of including a parcel tax measure on the ballot in 2014. The recommendation, provided by a Police Facility Feasibility and Site Analysis Ad Hoc committee appointed in 2012, was made based on findings that the current facility does not meet state code requirements, is seismically questionable and may no longer be viable in the case of a serious local emergency.

“The police facility is the only community services resource in Claremont that we all rely on continuously,” said Michael Shea, ad hoc committee member. “The Claremont police facility is the core resource connecting to and supporting the officers in the field when one citizen needs help and a community hub protecting all of us in the event of regional national disaster or other catastrophic events...the facility needs replacement.”

The city’s current police facility first became operational in 1972. Since that time, there are been numerous updates to policing standards not to mention changes to Claremont’s own demographic, Mr. Shea pointed out: The city has doubled in size from 7.6 to 14 square miles, from 24000 people to 35000, and from 24 police officers to 37.

To adequately serve the city of Claremont as it stands today, several things were deemed necessary, including 47,200 feet of space, updated technology and infrastructure, and 204 parking spaces.

The topic of providing updated digs for the Claremont Police Department has been a discussion years in the making, previously postponed because of a lack of affordable alternatives and identified funding sources. With the help of the ad hoc committee, officials are now able to identify possibilities moving forward. Several location alternatives were discussed, including adding on to the current facility, an estimated $49.6 venture, and taking over what is currently the City Yard, a project that could cost $42 million, according to Mr. Shea.

The committee pushed for the council to move forward with the cost forecast and seek voter approval to build a new police facility at the most cost effective location.

“[Borrowing money] is at an all-time low,” Mr. Shea noted. “If the city is going to something, now is a good time to borrow money.”

They then propose the money be paid back through a parcel tax divvied out to all property owners, including not-for-profit organizations traditionally exempt. “Law enforcement provides services on an equal benefit to all categories of property owners in the city of Claremont, including residents for profit businesses and not for profit organizations,” Mr. Shea justified.

Though all were supportive of the committee’s proposal to take a more detailed look at the cost forecast, Mr. Calaycay remained cautious about moving forward with a bond for the police facility while the city is in the throes of water acquisition.

“There’s no question there is a need here,” Mr. Calaycay said. “It just kind of concerns me that we are taking on a lot at one time and they should all be looked at in context.”

While cognizant of that concern, the council encouraged city staff to move forward with acquiring real cost estimates to make a more informed decision on whether or not to pursue a vote on a parcel tax.

“We keep on kicking the can and we can keep on doing that and wishing away that if there was a disaster that we would just be ok, but that is not true,” said Mayor Opanyi Nasiali. “We need to do something.”

Crack down on illegal parking

Parking next to a red curb in Claremont may now mean a visit to the impound lot, thanks to a new city ordinance.

In order to more effectively enforce the city’s parking regulations, the council unanimously agreed to make all restricted parking areas in the city into potential “tow-away zones.” The move was made in response to the city’s recent decision to create a no parking zone at the end of the Via Santa Catarina cul-de-sac, located next to the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park.

According to the California Vehicle Code, the city council has the ability to enforce the removal of cars from restricted areas on either a citywide or case-by-case basis. However, “doing this on a case-by-case basis would be time consuming and redundant,” explained City Engineer Loretta Mustafa.

While tow-away zones may now become more prevalent, residents will have a warning before their cars are carted off. All areas to be subjected to car removal will need appropriate signage before the law is enforced.

Council addresses water, million-dollar expenditures

The Claremont City Council Tuesday authorized the city's negotiator to make a new offer to Golden State Water Company for the purchase of Claremont's water system.

City Attorney Sonia Carvalho made the announcement after a closed council discussion on Tuesday afternoon. The original $54 million offer was revised after an updated appraisal, she confirmed. However, the amount of the new offer was not disclosed. Ms. Carvalho assured the cost of the new offer would be made available to the public once an official offer has been made to the water company.

—Beth Hartnett

news@claremont-courier.com

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