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Councilmember strong-armed by police PAC

Two Claremont hot button topics are slated for discussion at tonight's city council meeting.

The council will address negotiations with its police unions, as well as an appeal against a Chase Bank with drive-through to be built in the Sprouts Shopping Center.

Police have filed an Unfair Business Practice charge against the city. Councilmember Corey Calaycay received a letter on Thursday from the Committee of Police & Fire Associations Inspiring Responsible Elections (COPFIRE) stating “under your watch, the number of sworn police officers working the streets of Claremont has been cut by 15 percent.”

“Traffic Enforcement has been cut, the School Resource position has been reduced, the Investigations Division has been reduced to a point where there is no more active gang, graffiti or narcotics enforcement. All this while taking limited taxpayer resources for the city to purchase unnecessary real estate and increase staffing and compensation for executives at city hall,” the letter continues.

COPFIRE sent the letter in response to issues that “have been brought to light” during recent negotiations, claims Dieter Dammeier, Claremont Police Officers Association counsel, also stating that no other Claremont Councilmember is being reviewed by COPFIRE at this time.

 “Claremont is prioritizing money away from public safety and Mr. Calaycay was the spearhead for that,” Mr. Dammeier said. “Every function of that police department right now is a barebones skeleton. They [police officers] are being worked to death overtime-wise because staff has been reduced. The city is just not prioritizing the police department.”

Mr. Calaycay provided a copy of the letter, but declined to verbally comment on the matter before tonight's meeting. He stated in writing:

“I have forwarded correspondence from a political action committee claiming to represent fire and police officers associations throughout San Gabriel Valley and the Inland Empire that was delivered to my official City of Claremont e-mail and postal addresses, which makes the correspondence a matter of public record. Therefore, I believe that the public has a right to be aware of this letter.”

The council will discuss the police impasse in open session for the first time since negotiations began. The city proposes that the council adopt a resolution that will have police paying 6 percent of their Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) contribution within the first year. This PERS amount will replace the previously proposed 3 percent. The 1.5 percent Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) will still be a part of the contract.

As a resolution adopted by the city council draws nearer, emotions are being stirred on both sides of the line.

The construction of a Chase bank on the corner of Mountain Avenue and Foothill Boulevard, will also be discussed. The proposed bank was appealed by Tony Husson, co-owner of 21 Choices located behind the lot where the proposed Chase will be. Mr. Husson says the Chase building would block his store from sight, creating a “window of opportunity” for potential crooks.

“Criminals know behind the bank is a business that is blocked from the street,” Mr. Husson said. “If you put this building in front of us you create the opportunity for an impulse robbery.”

The construction of the bank on the corner lot was given unanimous approval by the Planning Commission last month, which saw the bank as a viable option for the space.

“It will provide lighting in an area of the lot that is currently completely black and neglected,” said Commissioner K.M. Williamson at the September 20 meeting. “That entire area will be redesigned and re-illuminated, and is going to be way safer than it could ever be...it will be a real improvement.”

The 4264 square-foot building will stand 14 feet high on the half-acre lot. Changes have been made to address expressed concerns over pedestrian safety, including condensing the drive-through from 2 lanes into one, and adding additional striping for pedestrian walkways.

“The new building is less than half the size of the original building, and is shifted 22 feet to the left. I was not required to do that. I did that to be a good neighbor,” said landowner Jim Harris, “but [Mr. Husson] wants us to shift the building to block someone else? It makes no sense.”

The meeting will take place at tonight at 6:30 p.m. in the council chambers at 225 Second Street.

—Beth Hartnett

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