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Council approves new police station funding for November ballot

Claremont residents will be faced with yet another big decision come election time following the city council’s unanimous decision to move forward with a bond measure for up to $50 million to fund a new public safety facility.

Police Chief Paul Cooper presented a report supporting the department’s need for a new police station. In his address to council on Tuesday, Chief Cooper stressed that the current police station, which was built in an era where electric typewriters and carbon paper ruled the day as technological tools, is wholly unfit for a modern police force.

The 40-year-old facility was designed for “an age where mankind was anticipating a moon landing, gasoline was 34 cents a gallon, officers were working eight- hour shifts, female officers were relatively rare, and equipment such as personal computers and fax machines were relegated to an imaginary world envisioned by Buck Rogers,” Chief Cooper said in his report.

For the past four decades, the Claremont Police Department has been operating 24 hours a day, 365 days a year in a facility that was designed for a smaller workforce in a much smaller community and has become obsolete, the chief asserted, stating that the current structure can no longer meet the needs of the staff or the more than 35,000 residents for which it serves.

Two methods of funding for the project were presented by City Finance Director Adam Pierrie to city council members Tuesday night—general obligation bonds or a parcel tax.

The parcel tax differs from general obligation bonds in that a tax payment would be assessed to each property owner as a flat rate per parcel,  not based on the valuation of the property. A parcel tax would also include revenue paid to the city by non-taxable property owners, such as churches and the Colleges.

The Claremont City Council voted 5-0 to pursue the approximate $50 million parcel tax funding, stating that the services provided by the police department are utilized by all members of the Claremont community.

Councilmembers approved a 40-year term, based on a suggestion by Councilmember Larry Schroeder, who noted that residents can expect the new safety facility to serve the department’s needs for approximately as long as the current station has.

A property owner with an assessed property valuation of $530,000 would pay approximately $286 annually—or about $24 a month—for the next 40 years to fund a new public safety facility. The yearly payment would remain fixed, estimating  the total debt service over the life of the term at $119.5 million.

“I think the financial situation could be better but, the fact is, if we don’t do it today it will not be under our control if we have to do it in the future based on an emergency,” said Councilman Joe Lyons. “That would be a time when we’d most need a functioning public safety department and they would be compromised like others in the area. Clearly, that threat is one we’ve played Russian roulette with long enough and I think now is the time to move forward.”

A two-thirds voter approval would be required for the funding measure to pass on November 3.

“I’m disappointed that this project has been tabled because of the water bond issue taking precedence,” Police Commissioner Kristina Brooks told the council. “We’ve been able to ignore the issue for so long because our police services haven’t been negatively impacted and that’s due to what a great job the police department has done.”

Now that city council has given direction on the financing mechanism, city staff will bring back the required documents to put the measure before the voters in the fall, as well as the final cost estimates for construction of the new public safety facility.

Mayor Corey Calaycay suggests the community look at the evidence when deciding their vote in November.

“The pictures speak for themselves if you take the time to take the tour [of the station],” Mr. Calaycay said.  “People can then see the reality of what our police department is facing and what the need is.”

—Angela Bailey

news@claremont-courier.com

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