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Colleges police station contribution not likely known until end of year

Wednesday night’s police facility ad hoc committee meeting, the last of the summer, was spent fine-tuning the final report that will be sent to the city council for approval.

The report—which was presented to the committee to make sure everyone is on the same page—could be considered by the city council as early as their first September meeting, according to City Manager Tony Ramos.

Under the proposal, the new station would be built on the same location as the existing station and stand two-stories tall, with about 25,000 square feet overall. New financing will include some money from the city’s general fund, a $25 million general obligation (GO) bond and a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) program for the Claremont Colleges. The Colleges’ financial contribution has become somewhat of a sticking point in moving forward with the new station.

Without a firm dollar commitment from the Colleges, the committee cannot determine how much general fund and obligation bond financing will be needed to pay for the project.

Part of the committee’s proposal to the city council in September is a request  for $250,000 from the general fund, which was required by the station’s architectural firm, WMM Associates, in order to continue with the design and engineering plans.

Committee chair Mark Sterba noted that the multi-layered financing system starts with the PILOT program and general fund money, with the remainder going to the voters under a GO bond.

“What we go to the residents with is going to be the gap between what we’ve already got and what we need to get to,” Mr. Sterba said.

But the exact amount of the Colleges’ contribution remains to be determined. Mr. Ramos told the committee that negotiations are underway regarding the amount, but it would be difficult to get a quick answer from Claremont University Consortium CEO Stig Lanesskog on exactly how much the CUC would pony up.

“I won’t get an answer back from the Colleges probably until the end of the calendar year, if I’m lucky,” Mr. Ramos said, noting that the arrival of three new college presidents and the task of getting them up to speed on the issue is a main factor for the delay.

Mr. Lanesskog, who is a member of the committee, was not present Wednesday evening. Mr. Lanesskog has missed the last four meetings of the committee. The last full meeting he attended was March 23.

Claremont Police Chief Paul Cooper educated the committee on how colleges contribute, if at all, to municipal police departments. Some private colleges, including the CUC, have their own campus safety force, but policing powers have to be granted by the state, he said.

Nine local private institutions surveyed by the city did not contribute financially to their city’s municipal police departments. Both Harvard and Yale Universities have PILOT programs in place, but their money goes to their respective cities’ general funds, as opposed to direct funding for law enforcement, Chief Cooper said.

The Claremont PD and campus safety have a “memorandum of understanding,” or agreement, which allows the Colleges to investigate non-suspect and non-evidence property crimes under $5000, which cuts down on the CPD’s time spent at the Colleges taking reports for low-level crimes.

From 2011-2015, just over 3.5 percent of total CPD calls were to the Claremont Colleges. During that same time, the Colleges represented 28.62 percent of all “Part I” crimes reported in the city, with campus safety officers handling more than 90 percent of those crime reports. Part I crimes include theft, burglary, aggravated assault, arson and forcible rape. Chief Cooper said the majority of Part I crimes reported from the Colleges are bike thefts.

The report Wednesday reviewed the elements previously discussed throughout the committee meetings, which began in January: the location of the proposed station, the budget, the financing method, size and scale.

The proposal could find itself on the June 6, 2017 ballot, if all of the elements—including funding, council approval and community education—fall into place, Mr. Ramos said. Ultimately, it will be up to the city council to determine when the bond makes the ballot.

“We have one more bite of this apple, I believe, to really do this right,” Mr. Ramos said.

During discussion, committee member Frank Bedoya took issue with wording of $25 million being the “maximum,” and called for more flexible wording in the event the project goes over-budget.

“I just think that, having sat on this committee for a number of years, knowing how this city operates, you put a word out like maximum and it comes a penny over, we’re going to be taken to task,” Mr. Bedoya said.

Other committee members agreed to use “target” instead of “maximum” when referring to the budget in the council report.

The committee also wrestled with the lifetime of the proposal, zeroing in on a 20-year bond life, which is exactly half of the 40-year life that Measure PS proposed.

Committee member Paul Wheeler inquired about the method of construction, claiming that if the project uses non-prevailing wage work, it could save 30 percent of the overall cost, or around seven million dollars.

“I really feel that we should spend the taxpayer’s money, or ask to spend it, with as much reverence and hard work as it took to earn the money,” Mr. Wheeler said.

Currently, state public works law mandates that prevailing wage work—which includes hourly wage plus benefits and overtime—be used in city construction of public works facilities. Mr. Wheeler said the city could do a “lease buyback” to possibly circumvent public works law, meaning a private contractor provides construction and the financing package, “and at the end of the financing, the city buys the completed project for a dollar.”

Mr. Ramos said he would talk to city staff regarding the legality of going around the prevailing wage, and Mr. Sterba asked Mr. Wheeler to add information about the method of construction to the report.

Mr. Sterba’s next task is to put months of information from committee meetings into a three-page executive summary to present to the council. The deadline for an agenda item to make the September council meeting is August 31, Mr. Ramos said.

—Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com

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