New police, energy, sanitation fees lead way at council meeting

The Claremont city council swore in three new officers and approved a sanitation tax increase during its May 23 meeting.

Claremont Police Chief Shelly Vander Veen swore in the new officers—Officer James Summerfield, Officer Cory Hodge and Officer William Livingston—during a special ceremony at the start of the meeting. The chief also presided over the swearing-in of a new jailer, Chariya Chilson, and a new dispatcher, Dararai “Joy” Rodpai-Parham.

Officer Summerfield, 22, comes from West Covina and was initially training to become a firefighter. He spent time working for EMT service Cole-Schaefer before joining the Claremont police.

“Thankfully, James realized he would be bored as a firefighter and applied with the Claremont Police Department,” Chief Vander Veen quipped. “I added that.”

Officer Hodge, 23, is a Claremont native who was a member of the high school’s CIF championship soccer team and was a three-year explorer with the Ontario police before joining the CPD, Chief Vander Veen said.

Officer Livingston comes from Glendora and was the quarterback for both his high school football team and the University of La Verne, leading his college to its first conference championship in 20 years, Chief Vander Veen said.

Ms. Chilson has worked for CPD in a number of jobs, including three years as an explorer, in the records bureau and as an overnight parking enforcement officer.

Ms. Rodpai-Parham, a native of Thailand, comes from Rancho Cucamonga and worked for the state parks and recreation department as a communications officer.

The city now has 39 sworn officers, up from 36 in 2013. The new officers start on a base annual salary of around $71,000 each, paid though the general fund, according to city Finance Director Adam Pirrie.


Sanitation fee increase approved

The council approved a 73-cent sanitation fee increase, which comes on the recommendation of the sanitation ad hoc committee in 2014, according to Community Services Manager Kristin Mikula.

The 2.7 percent fee increase—totaling $188,000—comes after city staff created a five-year budget projection for the sanitation fund. The sanitation fund covers all city costs and operations relating to trash collection, recycling and sanitation vehicles.

For the 2017-18 fiscal year, the city anticipates spending around $6.9 million in operational costs for sanitation and vehicle replacements. The revenue projections for the next fiscal year, which includes the fee increase in implemented this July, amounts to around $6.35 million, leaving the santiation department baout $588,000 in the red. City policy requires maintaining a minimum of a 15 percent cushion for next year’s planned vehicle purchases.

The fee increase is expected to help with the deficit over the next five years, as the city projects the department shortfall to decrease to $288,671 by the 2021-22 fiscal year.

Ms. Mikula maintains that without a sanitation fee increase, the fund would be fully depleted by the 2019-2020 fiscal year, cutting off money for new sanitation-related purchases by the city.

Councilmember Corey Calaycay pointed out that while the increase may give residents pause, even cities who contract out their sanitation services to third party companies, like La Verne’s partnership with Waste Management, are also experiencing rate increases.

The council unanimously passed the fee increase, which will go into effect July 1.


City energy program

The council was also introduced to a new energy program they say could rival Southern California Edison. The Community Choice Aggregation Program, or CCA for short, would allow cities to have a say in obtaining clean energy for their communities.

The CCA was established through AB117 in 2002, which gives local governments the opportunity to get clean energy while providing public accountability, the city said. CCAs have already been established in Marin County, Sonoma County and Lancaster. LA County has been looking into creating its own CCA since 2010.

According to Director of Community Services Roger Bradley, if implemented, the program would allow the city to have local control over procurement of energy and setting rates. The city would get the power and investor-owned utilities such as Edison would continue to maintain power lines and provide billing, according to the city.

The CCA plan could also lead to increased renewable resources, Mr. Bradley explained to the council. Under the current Southern California Edison (SCE) model, around 28 percent of the energy comes from renewable resources, while the CCA has the potential to increase it to 50 percent or 100 percent, Mr. Bradley said.

According to a feasibility study conducted by LA County in 2016, the CCA program could result in a 5.4 percent decrease in rates compared to Edison. If a customer opts into a 50 percent renewable energy package, the rate would be 4.1 percent lower than Edison. Alternately, a customer opting for a 100 percent renewable energy package would realize a 6.3 percent increase over Edison’s rates because the energy itself it more costly to obtain.

If the city joins, Claremont customers can opt in to or out of the program, Mr. Bradley said. Based on previous CCA models, 95 percent of customers who join the program stay on board.

The program is in the beginning stages and many details, such as penalties for the city to opt out of the program, were not presented at the meeting. The city was only receiving information, rather than making a decision.

Mr. Bradley proposed hosting community workshops over the summer for residents to become more informed on the process. The program is set to come back to the city council as an ordinance by September.

The county is also proposing a Joint-Powers Agreement (JPA) with cities and unincorporated communities within the county. City Manager Tony Ramos explained that if Claremont agrees to opt in to the program early on, it would have a larger say at the table than if it jumps in after the JPA is already created.

Bill Carnahan, acting interim director of the JPA, told the council he had been in regular meetings with Edison about the plan, and noted SCE remains neutral because it is required to work the JPA by state law.

“Now, are they happy about it? Probably not, but this is the new world and it provides customers a choice,” Mr. Carnahan said. “I think that’s the advantage here. You’re not forcing your residents to do anything, they can default back to Edison if they want to.”

Councilmember Opanyi Nasiali wondered how a person would know if the energy they are getting is actually renewable and not from fossil fuels.

Mr. Bradley said the JPA would go directly to the groups who are creating the energy, such as plants or solar farms, to make sure the energy comes from renewable sources.

The city council asked that the Community and Human Services Commission play an active role throughout the process to determe if the city should join the program.

The next city council meeting is June 16.

—Matthew Bramlett


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