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Police facility committee inches forward

After a dismal report, the police facility ad hoc committee decided to do away with the existing police station during its Wednesday evening meeting.

The committee also tabled a discussion on police service level to the Claremont Colleges due to an early exit from committee member and Claremont University Consortium CEO Stig Lanesskog, and received information on the number of parking spaces needed for a new police facility.

See aerial video of the current police station

The structural engineering analysis of the current station was presented by architect Steve Wiley of WMM Associates and Jeff Templemen, a project coordinator and retired deputy chief of the Alhambra Police Department. Mr. Wiley and Mr. Templemen have worked on police stations in Arcadia, Whittier, Azusa and Signal Hill.

Mr. Wiley did not paint a rosy picture of the current station.

“Out of the 30 or 40 buildings that I have visited, many of them have been renovated,” Mr. Wiley said. “This is one of the buildings which, should you have a major [seismic] event, is not one that would necessarily have a little damage but could have failure.”

The reason, Mr. Wiley pointed out, is the design of the building, which includes four big walls held together by Strescore, hollow concrete panels weighing roughly 7,000 pounds each. In the event of a large earthquake, he noted, the station—which was built to withstand an atomic bomb—would stay put, which could cause catastrophic damage.

The building, as it sits right now, cannot be retrofitted to fit current essential services codes, according to Mr. Wiley, as it was built during a time when those codes were not clearly defined.

“We would be fortunate, if you were to spend a great deal of money, to be able to make that building meet codes that will even allow us to make it into a storage facility,” he said.

Mr. Wiley said the new facility could be built behind the current station, with the department moving into the new station once it’s completed, a process that has been previously employed in Arcadia and is scheduled in San Gabriel.

The site of the current station could be converted into roughly 25 to 30 parking spaces, he claimed.

The committee agreed with Mr Wiley’s assessment, and voted to have the existing station torn down. The only dissenting vote was from committee member Jack Blair. Committee Chair Mark Sterba abstained, citing a need for more information about what portions of the building are considered “essential services.”

The committee touched briefly on the College Consortium’s contribution to the police facility. At the last meeting, the committee approved a proposed $25 million general obligation bond with a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) mechanism from the Colleges, an amount that  is to be determined later.

Mr. Lanesskog said the Colleges are “willing to engage in a conversation” with the city on the Claremont University Consortium’s contribution. The CUC was previously asked by the city to provide $1 million if Measure PS were to pass; a donation Mr. Lanesskog said was agreed to without hestiation from the CUC.

Committee member Hal Hargrave said the contribution from the Colleges should be larger.

“When we’re talking about payment in lieu of taxes, I think it needs to be significant from the Colleges,” Mr. Hargrave said. “I think the city has to push for that, staff has to push for that.”

Committee member Jim Keith noted that roughly 3.5 percent of all calls to the Claremont Police Department were related to the Colleges. He coupled that figure with the current total annual budget of the police department—$10.75 million per year—for an average cost of $370,000 per year for police services for the Colleges.

“In my mind, 10 to 15 years of that would take you to about a $3.5 million to $5 million contribution,” he said. “I think that would be more significant than $1 million.”

Mr. Lanesskog stressed that the pledged $1 million from the Colleges was the city’s idea. “It feels like this is being used against us, which I don’t think is appropriate,” he said.

Councilmember Corey Calaycay confirmed Mr. Lanesskog’s assertion, adding that the city did not anticipate the kind of questions raised from the community about the size of the donation.

Additional talk about the Colleges was initially scheduled, but was tabled until the next meeting due to Mr. Lanesskog’s early exit for a family event. The committee was first scheduled to talk about the Colleges’ contributions during the April 20 meeting, but that discussion was shelved also due to Mr. Lanesskog’s absence.

The committee also received a report from Captain Shelley Vander Veen about the parking required for a new police station. According to documents sent out to the group, 51 employee spaces are needed and 64 spaces are needed for department vehicles, for a total of 115 secured parking spaces and an anticipated parking capacity of 100 to 125 spaces.

Captain Vander Veen noted there are no specific requirements for public parking at a police facility. The closest zoning in this case is institutional/educational, which calls for one parking space per 24 square feet. A 1,200-square-foot multi-purpose room, for instance, would need 40 to 50 public spaces under this requirement, which could be fulfilled by street parking.

Mr. Keith contended that 51 spaces seemed too large for the police employee lot and suggested that secured parking be available only for sworn officers. Claremont Police Chief Paul Cooper took issue with the recommendation and responded that it would be “short-sighted” to relegate other employees such as dispatchers and records clerks to unsecured parking spaces.

Information on parking will be sent to WMM to be worked on, with a report anticipated at the next meeting.

After the meeting, Police Commissioner Ed Reece was skeptical that a ballot measure could be ready by November. “There’s so much that needs to be completed on this,” he said.

The deadline to submit a ballot measure for November is July 26. The next committee meeting is June 29.

—Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com

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