Council discusses bond possibilities to fund three major city projects
Following a sleepy summer, Claremont has woken up with recent movement on three longstanding issues—water system ownership, building a new police facility and updating and expanding the Joslyn Senior Center. But with these developments comes a major city dilemma: prioritizing the priorities.
“Everything is pretty much laid out, now how much are we willing to spend?” Councilmember Sam Pedroza posed at Tuesday night’s city council meeting.
Multi-million dollar projects have been at the forefront of the Claremont council’s discussion over the past month. On September 28, the city’s water negotiating team moved forward with a new $55 million offer to Golden State Water Company and, at the same time, the new police facility ad hoc committee brought its feasibility study forward to the council with a cost estimate of at least $42 million for a new police center. Both would rely on some sort of bond measure to move forward.
Tuesday’s council meeting presented more of the same with a report given on the Larkin Park Campus Improvement Project—a 14,000 square foot expansion and renovation to Larkin Park and the Joslyn Center that is estimated at about $15 million. Like the others, the Larkin Park improvement plan has been a council priority for years, stalled only because of lack of available funds. While estimating about $2 million of that could be raised through local fundraising efforts and available grants, the project’s ad hoc committee recognized the rest would need to be acquired through a bond.
While acknowledging the concerns of moving forward with voting on a bond measure while the city pursues other costly ventures, the committee urged the council to allow them to move forward in conducting a feasibility study. They also offered a gift of $20,000 from the Claremont Senior Foundation fund to help pay for a bond survey to evaluate interest not only for the Larkin Park renovation, but for the police station renovation.
While maintaining that renovating and expanding the Joslyn Center is still a city priority, and agreeing that a feasibility study should be conducted, council members were hesitant to move forward with the survey. In a 4-0 vote, with Councilmember Larry Schroeder absent, the council opted to move forward with the feasibility study while holding off on a survey until the public can be presented with all the options. City Manager Tony Ramos expects that information will be ready in about 6 to 9 months time, at which time a feasibility study with more realistic cost estimates for both the police facility and Larkin Park are expected to be complete.
“I don’t want to confuse the people of the community by a survey that tells them one thing and then later on we come back and say there is something else we want to look at,” said Mayor Opanyi Nasiali.
Mr. Nasiali illuminated his point by referring back to the city’s efforts to purchase Johnson’s Pasture back in 2006. Survey results showed that the community was interested in a bond measure to help purchase the pasture. At the same time, however, the city was working on expanding Padua Park. When it came to placing a bond measure on the spring 2006 ballot, it was decided that funding for parks should also be attached to the Johnson’s Pasture tax. The measure failed.
“I do not wish to face that situation again,” Mr. Nasiali said.
While pleased with the efforts made on moving forward with all of these city priorities, council members cautioned residents about the potential burdens. As it is, City Manager Tony Ramos noted that Claremont residents with an assessed property of $450,000 pay a little more than $1,000 in special assessment taxes already.
“All of these [priorities] are going to have to be put into context...there are a lot of needs for this community,” Councilmember Corey Calaycay said. “Ironically, this being for seniors, seniors tend to be on limited incomes so some seniors might have a challenging time trying to accommodate all of the things that are a priority to our community.”