Council approves new police officer, increased speed limits

New speed limits, a request for an additional police officer and a positive update on the city’s economic sustainability report were on the agenda during a lean city council meeting on Tuesday, November 24.

The two main administrative items before the council were a request from Claremont Police Chief Paul Cooper for an additional member of his force, and an update from City Finance Director Adam Pirrie on the better-than-expected financial situation of the city.

According to Chief Cooper, the Claremont Police Department—which counts 38 sworn officers, detectives, lieutenants and others among its ranks—is in dire need of extra help. Five of those officers are currently on leave due to injury. To fill these vacancies, Mr. Cooper said the department has had to temporarily reassign detectives to patrol positions, “for weeks at a time, rotating through the entire detective bureau.”

A new officer, Mr. Cooper said, would not only alleviate the overtime experienced by officers, but would also increase morale and effectiveness within the ranks.

The request was approved by the council with a unanimous 5-0 vote. Ideally, Mr. Cooper said, the new officer would be hired by December 21 and would start working in the field by mid-May.

The economic update from Mr. Pirrie was a welcome bit of good news for the city going into the holiday season.

The ad-hoc committee put together in 2010 by then-Mayor Linda Elderkin was tasked to take a look at the projected economic future of the city. The forecast was grim: if the city continued on its path, it would face a general fund budget deficit of $2.3 million by 2015, according to city documents.

The committee recommended sweeping budgetary changes in order to stave off the impending deficit. These changes included overhauling the PERS benefits so the city would not have to pay the employee’s contribution to the retirement system and pursuing new commercial development ventures across town.

The result, according to the update, was $24.5 million in general fund revenues by 2012, an over $2.5 million increase over the projected estimate. By 2015, the general fund was still over $1 million the projected level brought forth by the ad-hoc committee.

The council was pleased with the update. Councilmember Opanyi Nasiali, who along with fellow Councilmember Larry Schroeder served on the initial ad-hoc committee, called the report “very gratifying.”

“To paraphrase a line from a movie I watched recently, we have actually worked very hard to be lucky,” Mr. Nasiali said. “So I think we need to continue working hard at spending the city’s funds wisely and to continue the spirit of living within our means.”

Councilmember Joe Lyons said the “writing was on the wall” for tough economic times ahead, and praised the committee members for working toward avoiding the economic disasters that have befallen other cities.

“This is a very collaborative effort from the staff, from the council and from the public,” Councilmember Sam Pedroza said. “We have weathered this financial storm pretty well.”

Items on the consent calendar included the reclassification changes in speed limits to a number of local streets.

Based on the 2014 speed survey, the council approved recommendations to reclassify three stretches of streets to local roads—American Avenue from Mills to Indian Hill, Mountain Avenue from San Jose to Arrow and San Jose Avenue from Mills to College. One stretch of road, College Way from Williams to College Way, would be reclassified as a Major Collector road. All roadways save for College Way will experience a slight drop in speed limit, from 30 mph to 25 mph.

Based on the 2015 speed survey, which was unveiled during the Traffic and Transportation Committee earlier in November, seven additional streets within the city would also experience changes.

These streets—College Avenue from San Jose to Arrow, Lassen Avenue from Scottsbluff to Lindenwood, Lindenwood from Lassen to Shenandoah, Mountain Avenue from Bonita to Harrison, Shenandoah Drive from Lindenwood to Claremont Boulevard, Sixth Street from Indian Hill to College and Sumner Avenue from Briarcroft to Ridgefield—will be reclassified as local roads.

Once the city receives approval from Caltrans, the street changes will then be added to the city’s general plan, according to city documents.

Also on the consent calendar was a contract to purchase two additional sanitation trucks to serve the city. Los Angeles Truck Center offered to sell the trucks to the city for $330,062.22, records show. The grand total for the two trucks amounted to $660,134.44.

The trucks will be purchased through a combination of $60,000 in grants from the Mobile Source Air Pollution Reduction Review Committee and $600,134.44 from the city’s sanitation fund.

During public comment, Claremont resident Eleanor Rector used her time to continue to rail against both Measure PS and Syrian refugees.

At the tail end of the council meeting, Mayor Corey Calaycay unveiled the creation of an ad hoc committee to look into the possibility of new plans for a possible police station. The committee, to be made up of supporters of Measure PS as well as detractors, will be discussed and voted on during the next council meeting.

City Manager Tony Ramos also had his annual performance evaluation during a closed session before the council meeting. Mr. Calaycay noted Mr. Ramos received “high marks” during the session, and will receive a performance award at the next city council meeting.

The Claremont City Council will meet again on Tuesday, December 8 at 6:30 p.m. in council chambers.

—Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com

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