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VIEWPOINT: Time for a new public safety facility

After extensive analysis and review, the Claremont City Council has placed a general obligation bond measure on the June 5, 2018 ballot to fund a new police facility.

The new police station would replace the existing substandard station on Bonita Avenue. The proposed police facility is significantly smaller and less expensive than the concept presented to voters in 2015 and was developed through a community input process.

The existing station at Bonita Avenue was built in 1972 and serves as the emergency services center for the city. At the time the station was constructed, the population and service area of Claremont was much smaller and was served by an all-male police force of less than 20 officers.

While computers and video are essential to police work today, the current station was built at a time when rotary phones and typewriters were all that was needed and female officers were uncommon. Over the years, the city has adapted offices and storage areas into the women’s locker room, computer server room, evidence processing and communication center.

For over a decade, city commissions and committees have been studying the feasibility of building a new facility to replace the aging police station. Although the current station has served the needs of the community for more than 45 years, it is no longer equipped to meet the demands of a modern police force.

The existing station also does not meet current state codes and requirements for an “essential services” building. “Essential services” is a category of services which if interrupted would endanger the life, health or personal safety of the whole or part of the population. Buildings that house essential services must be constructed at a much higher standard than residential or commercial construction in order for the structure to withstand natural disasters and remain operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Since the Northridge earthquake, building standards have dramatically changed in California to ensure essential services buildings can structurally withstand a major earthquake. Engineers now know that the concrete block materials, like those used in the Claremont station, will not withstand a major seismic event.

Additionally, the existing station was built before the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act and does not provide adequate facilities for female officers and staff. The jail facility does not meet current State of California Department of Corrections’ standards. The city hired an architect and structural engineer to analyze and compare the cost of renovating the existing station. The engineer found the limitations in the structure and foundation of the existing building make expansion and renovation not feasible.

Over the years, the city council and staff have met with state and federal representatives and agencies to secure grant funds and financing for the station. Time and again, the city has been told there are no funds for brick and mortar projects, only specific aspects of the project such as technology and communications.

Faced with no alternate way to fund the police facility, the city council proposed a parcel tax measure in 2015 to fund a new 35,000-square-foot $50 million police facility on Monte Vista Avenue. The parcel tax measure failed to pass.

Following the defeat of Measure PS, then Mayor Corey Calaycay formed a 15-member citizen committee to analyze the police station. The committee was made up of a diverse cross section of Claremont residents. The committee looked at the needs of the department, analyzed the department’s operations, identified efficiencies and reviewed designs, costs and locations.

After nine months, the committee recommended a 26,000-square-foot police facility at the existing location on Bonita Avenue costing no more than $25 million and funded through a 25-year general obligation bond.

In July 2016, the city hired WMM and Associates to develop a schematic design and plan for a new two-story facility. For nine months, the city worked with the architect to design a facility that meets the current and future needs of the community. City staff shared these conceptual plans with residents and businesses at four community meetings in the summer of 2017 and asked for input on a preferred funding mechanism. 

Using the information gathered during the community meetings and an online survey, staff presented a report to the city council on possible funding options. The city council voted to fund the construction of a new station through a general obligation bond measure, as recommended by the Ad Hoc Citizen Committee.

The city is proposing a $23.5 million bond with a bond term of 25 years. The assessment is $31 per $100,000 in assessed value on a property. The city would contribute $1.5 million in general fund money for fixtures and furnishings and any grant money would be used to reduce the bond amount.

When developing the new police station proposal and deciding on a funding option, the city council weighed all its options and took into account residents’ concerns. While not everyone will agree on the funding choice, the need for a new police station is clear.

The proposal before voters is a product of the Claremont community input process and represents the size, location, cost and funding our residents requested. I encourage residents to find out more about the condition of the current station and the proposed new station at claremontca.org or schedule a tour of the station by calling (909) 399-5411.