New police station vote pushed to 2018

Claremont voters will have to wait another year before they see a police station measure on the ballot.

The Police Facility Ad Hoc Committee set a ballot date for June 5, 2018, approved the police station site plans and narrowly-approved a general obligation (GO) bond funding mechanism during the June 28 meeting at the Hughes Center.

The station plans include a 26,000-square-foot facility built at the current police station site at 570 West Bonita Avenue. The plans include a 25-space impound lot, about 10 jail cells for men, women and juveniles, ample office space, a multipurpose room that can hold up to 50 people and a 900-square-foot exercise room.

“I’m excited about this plan,” Claremont Police Chief Shelly Vander Veen said during her presentation. “I’m confident it’s going to be our police station for the next 40 years.”

In total, the cost of the station would be $25 million over 25 years, which includes a $23.5 million bond plus a $1.5 million general fund contribution for soft costs such as furniture and other equipment.

Committee chair Marcia Horowitz was especially proud of the progress the committee made since first convening in January 2016.

“I think what’s been really phenomenal is that we’ve been able to come together as a group and really create something that meets everyone’s requests,” she said.

The group also unanimously approved the measure’s appearance on the June 5, 2018 ballot. The committee cited a need for time to educate Claremont voters about the plan as a reason to push the vote date. This was a sentiment shared by Police Commissioner Ed Reece.

“Rushing this would not set us up to win,” he said.

This isn’t the first time the committee has pushed the vote to fund the project. In June 2016, the committee voted to put the bond on a 2017 ballot, again saying it needed more time to educate the public. During the committee’s presentation to the city council in September 2016, they recommended the GO bond appear no later than the June 2017 ballot, according to previous COURIER reports.

While the group unanimously approved the facility plans and the ballot date this time around, they were more divided on the funding mechanism.

The city presented two funding options: a GO bond, which would issue an annual tax on homeowners based on their assessed property value, and two versions of a parcel tax—a fixed annual rate per parcel as well as a tax based on square footage.

According to figures presented by the city, the annual debt service under a GO bond would amount to $1.44 million, for a total of $36.06 million over 25 years. Under a parcel tax, the annual debt service would amount to $1.53 million or $38.33 million over 25 years—a difference of $2.27 million.

Broken down further, Claremont homeowners would pay around $31.08 per $100,000 in assessed value under a GO bond. If a Claremonter owns a house with an assessed value of $700,000, for example, they would be paying $217.56 per year under a GO bond, according to figures presented by the city. Nonprofits, schools and commercial property owners will not contribute under a GO bond.

Under a flat rate parcel tax, homeowners—as well as businesses and nonprofits—would each pay $146.02 per parcel per year. If the parcel tax were based on square footage, the annual payment would be $50.31 per 1,000 square feet—which amounts to $150.92 for a 3,000 square-foot home, the city says.

Whether it’s a parcel tax or GO bond, either funding mechanism will require a two-thirds majority vote to pass.

Ultimately, the committee members’ decision came down to how much the Claremont Colleges would contribute. College contribution has been a major topic of discussion in the committee since day one, with million-dollar figures being thrown around and the lack of a definitive answer from Claremont University Consortium (CUC) CEO and committee member Stig Lanesskog.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the College’s Presidents Council indicated that while there is still no firm commitment from the Colleges, any contribution would have to be equal to the amount of calls of service by the CPD, relative to the final bond amount.

Police response to the Colleges made up around three percent of all calls from 2011-2015. Based on the formula suggested—and factoring in the $25 million bond—the Claremont Colleges would contribute around $750,000 toward construction of the new station.

Under the square footage parcel tax, the Claremont Colleges would pay about $185,704 annually or $4,242,525 over 25 years, as opposed to just over $16,000 annually with a GO bond or $406,675 in 25 years.

After Claremont voters passed Measure S in 2006, a $12.5 million bond measure to purchase 180 acres in Johnson’s Pasture, the Claremont Colleges pledged nearly $2.5 million to be paid over 35 years to secure ownership of the open space.

Mr. Lanesskog defended the Colleges’ stance, emphasizing that CUC employees who own homes and pay taxes in Claremont would be contributing toward the bond, regardless of it’s structure.

“When I look at it again sort of neutrally, it looks to me like you want to increase the costs and shift the costs to stick it to the Colleges,” he said. “That isn’t a narrative I’m terribly comfortable with, forgetting about the fact that I am associated with the Colleges. And I just want us to think about the other contributions the Colleges provide to all of us, that all of us get value in, including specifically around campus.”

Hal Hargrave called the figures into question and advocated for a parcel tax in part to get the Colleges to contribute more.

“In my 50-some-odd years of being a resident in this town, I’ve called the police department twice,” Mr. Hargrave said. “So if I were to use that rationale for service, three percent of calls on an annual basis, at least for the last 25 years I should pay zero. It’s a terrible rationale.”

The Colleges had previously committed $1 million toward the new police station 2015, a figure that was reportedly suggested by the city council but was also criticized by some residents as being too little. That bond measure, which failed with voters, proposed up to $50 million on a fixed tax rate of $286 per year per parcel.

Other committee members debated the pros and cons of each funding option. Democratic Club of Claremont Vice President Gar Byrum noted Democrats would not support a parcel tax, calling it regressive.

Carolyn Gonzales said residents would pay more over time with a GO bond, calling it “the most unfair tax there is.”

In the end, the committee voted 7-5 in favor of the GO bond.

Some committee members noted that regardless of the funding structure, the committee’s real job is coming together and selling it to the public, with Helaine Goldwater noting that, “How we present this to the community is really how this passes or not.”

The plans are set to go before a regular city council meeting for final approval no later than February 27, 2018.

—Matthew Bramlett


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