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Police station ad hoc committee tries to put the past behind them

In what could also be called an airing of grievances, the first official meeting of the ad hoc committee for a new police station convened Wednesday.

The meeting is the first step in the journey toward building a new facility for Claremont. The 15-member committee was joined in the Citrus Room by Mayor Corey Calaycay, City Manager Tony Ramos and Assistant to the City Manager Brian McKinney, as well as Claremont Police Chief Paul Cooper, Captain Shelley Vander Veen and Police Commissioner Ed Reece.

The committee emerged from the ashes of Measure PS, which failed by a nearly three-to-one margin in November 2015. Mr. Calaycay began the meeting by putting the issue to bed.

“As we begin, we can recognize two things having come out of PS: First, without sugarcoating it, PS lost miserably,” Mr. Calaycay said. “The second thing, at least for those appointed here who did not support PS, is that there is a recognized need for a new facility.”

The new committee is a mixture of Claremonters who supported PS and those who did not—major PS proponents Betty Crocker, Frank Bedoya and Michael Shea are among the group, as well as vocal opponents Mark Sterba and Sally Seven.

Mr. Shea was encouraged to serve as chair of the committee, however, he said he “wasn’t the right person for the job.”

After a vote, Mr. Sterba was selected as chair, with Marci Horowitz chosen as vice-chair. Mr. Sterba used a medical analogy to describe the kind of work that needs to be done to craft a winning proposal.

“I think for this committee to be successful, medication is not going to fix it,” Mr. Sterba said. “It’s going to require surgery.”

The lone public commenter at the meeting—which is technically not under the rules of the Brown Act but is set up in a similar way for the sake of order—was Doug Lyon, who urged the committee to remember past mistakes and use what they learned to move forward.

Members of the committee submitted questions and concerns regarding the previous measure and shared what ideas they had for the potential new facility. Questions included the financial feasibility of certain amenities, size, location and how to package the initiative to skeptical voters. Many committee members offered ideas about contracting out certain costly details, such as a jail, an impound lot and a community room.

Ms. Horowitz began the question session by offering up a possible combo facility, noting that she had once seen a police station merged with a senior center. “Can we meet more than one need, to give us the most value for the dollar spent?” she asked.

Helaine Goldwater noted she had an issue with a 40-year bond paying for technology that could be obsolete in a fraction of that time. She also lamented the lack of educating the public on PS.

“This is a community that thrives on education,” Ms. Goldwater said. “Unfortunately, we did not have the time to do a good job on education.”

Hal Hargrave wanted to know if there were any pieces of land that may have come up since 2013, when parcels were initially mapped for PS locations. Jim Keith wondered why a police station couldn’t be built south of the railroad tracks.

Mr. Hargrave went on the offensive early in the meeting, telling Claremont University Consortium CEO Stig Lanesskog that the $1 million donation from the CUC was “a joke.” Mr. Lanesskog, an ad hoc committee member, explained that it was city staff who had reached out and asked him for the $1 million.

“We did not come up with that number,” he said.

Dissatisfied with the response, Mr. Hargrave pressed further. “Can you give 10 [million]?” he asked.

The former Claremont Golf Course currently owned by the CUC also came up in conversation as a potential site. But Mr. Lanesskog reiterated what the Colleges have said all along: it is not for sale.

“It is for future growth of the Colleges,” he said. 

Throughout the meeting, questions were logged by the city in a Word document, which will then be reviewed and responded to by city officials.

When Mr. Sterba proposed the next meeting be held in three weeks, the city manager explained he needed “at least 45 days” to respond fully to every query the committee raised.

Mr. Ramos indicated the city wanted to hit the ground running to draft up a new police station proposal as soon as possible.

“I don’t want this [committee] to last more than six months,” he said.

After the meeting, Mr. Reece expressed optimism at what the committee could accomplish in the months ahead.

“I have high confidence that this group will make it work,” he said.

The next meeting will be on March 9 at 6 p.m. in the Padua Room at the Hughes Community Center.

—Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com

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