Council opts for GO bond to fund proposed police station

The final details of the upcoming police station measure were hammered out Tuesday night.

The council voted 4-1 to place the measure on the June 5, 2018 ballot, and 4-1 to finance it as a general obligation (GO) bond. Mayor Pro Tem Opanyi Nasiali was the lone dissenter on both votes, favoring a parcel tax placed on a November 8 ballot.

The decisions came after the city received feedback from residents during several informational meetings throughout the fall. Claremont Police Chief Shelly Vander Veen noted during her presentation only a limited amount of feedback was received.

Of that feedback, views and opinions about different aspects of the station were mixed.

The city received 41 responses to a questionnaire about the proposed police station—25 online and 14 written. Of the 41 respondents, 25 were in support of a police facility, 12 were against it, and four were not sure, according to the city.

Jim Keith argued that the small number of respondents was actually a good thing, and a predictor the bond was going to pass.

“When Claremonters turn out, it’s because something is going in the wrong direction,” he said. “When it’s going in the right direction, they can sit home and do their other priorities and they don’t show up.”

Because of the low turnout, the city could not make a recommendation to the council on a financing option.

Of the 37 people who responded to a question of how the station should be funded, 28 preferred a parcel tax in some form—18 people preferred a parcel tax based on square footage and 10 people preferred a flat parcel tax. Eight people preferred a GO bond, and one person was not sure.

Despite this, the council determined the GO bond was the way to go.

The specter of Measure PS loomed heavily over the decision on the financing option. Measure PS was the first attempt at passing a bond for a new police station, and the flat parcel tax of $50 million over 40 years—which translated to $286 per parcel per year—was soundly rejected by the voters in November 2015.

The current plan is for a $25 million bond to be paid over 25 years for a roughly 26,000 square foot police station. The plans call for the police station to be built on the current site at 570 W. Bonita Ave.

A GO bond is a financing plan that assesses yearly payment based on the value of a property. If a property were worth about $324,000, for instance, the annual payment would be around $100.70. Colleges and non-profits would be largely exempt from paying into a GO bond, unless they owned residential property in the city.

A parcel tax based on square footage would require the Colleges to pay into the bond, and the average yearly payment for a 2,000 square foot home would be $100.61. A flat parcel tax would require every property to pay $146.02 per year per parcel.

Two Claremont McKenna College professors, Matt Magilke and Eric Hughson, took issue with the method of financing, recommending a parcel tax and urging the council to adopt non-callable bonds to prevent future residents from paying more in interest over the life of the bond.

Mr. Magilke called for an oversight committee in case rates were higher over the years and there was an interest rate surplus.

Mr. Nasiali was in favor of a November ballot date because even if the city says they can go for June, “this is going to need some kind of a campaign someone has to put together, and I don’t think that can be done in a few months.” He was also “reluctantly” in favor of a parcel tax based on square footage, because it was not as regressive as a flat tax and allowed those with larger properties to pay more into the bond. 

But most of the council was skittish about moving away from a GO bond, given the city’s spotty history with parcel tax initiatives.

“Claremonters don’t like parcel taxes. It’s a history lesson that we need to heed,” Councilmember Sam Pedroza said.

Mayor Larry Schroeder remarked that going with a GO bond is a political decision, rather than a mathematical one, and claimed the Claremont Colleges had made an informal pledge of $1 million as a contribution to the bond. The Colleges also made a one-time $1 million pledge, at the behest of the council, toward Measure PS in 2015.

Councilmember Corey Calaycay agreed with Mr. Magilke’s idea of an oversight committee, and amended his motion to include it.

Retiring city manager granted interim contract

The council also approved outgoing City Manager Tony Ramos to stay on in an interim status as they continue the search for his replacement.

As interim city manager, Mr. Ramos can work about 960 hours until June 30, 2018, with no benefits. The contract has a maximum total cost of $109,263, including salary ($106,650), workers’ compensation insurance ($1,066) and Medicare costs ($1,547).

Mr. Ramos’ final day as city manager will be December 28. While the contract is until June, the council emphasized that a new city manager could be installed by February 2018.

Mr. Ramos said the city is currently “in negotiations” with an individual, and the council may receive a new city manager contract during the first meeting in January.

The move follows a closed-session meeting held December 8 to interview the final two candidates for the job. The list was whittled down from roughly 40 applicants and involved citizen and professional panels.

The panels were comprised of members of the Claremont Colleges, the Claremont Chamber of Commerce, Sustainable Claremont and the Claremont Wildlands Conservancy.

“What we tried to do was get a broad cross section of the community, so the individuals have a good idea of what our community looks like,” Mr. Ramos said in an interview last week.

Rotary Club recognized for senior center project

The Rotary Club of Claremont was recognized by the city for its $10,000 contribution to the Joslyn Senior Center patio project.

Mayor Larry Schroeder commended Bonita Ramos and Sam Mowbray for their “significant contribution to the aging community.”

The renovations include new chairs, string lights, portable heaters and tables, as well as spaces for games and leisure. The patio is set to open in spring 2018.

Mr. Mowbray said Rotary got involved because his wife, Barbara, was a member of the city’s Committee on Aging and asked her husband if the club could help. “This town works well together and always has,” he said.

Foothill Boulevard Master Plan moves forward

The council also approved the Foothill Boulevard Master Plan to go out to bid, as well as a funding plan for the nearly $16 million beautification project.

First payment to Golden State Water approved

The council also approved a payment of $2 million to Golden State Water Company following the city’s loss in the water takeover acquisition. A payment of $2,117,020 is due on December 31. Under the terms of the settlement with Golden State, Claremont will make interest payments of $234,040 per year for the next 12 years for the remaining balance of $5,581,000. Two quarterly payments of $58,510 will be due on March 31, 2018 and June 30, 2018. 

Sex offender law amended

The council also approved amendments to an ordinance restricting registered sex offenders from residing within 2,000 feet of places where children gather.

The city is striking language that prohibited registrants from renting or residing in the “residential exclusion zone,” in response to a lawsuit filed by attorney Janice Bellucci on August 2.

The exclusion zone was outlined in “Jessica’s Law,” which was passed in 2006 and restricted registered sex offenders from living near schools, parks and community centers. Claremont later added its own language to include day care centers and restricted the number of sex offenders in a single dwelling. In her initial complaint, Ms. Bellucci called the restrictions “unlawful banishment” for registrants who would want to live in Claremont.

Chief Vander Veen said the city had not enforced the residency restrictions since 2010, when a Los Angeles Superior Court judge placed a hold on enforcing Jessica’s Law. But the San Diego County case In Re Taylor in 2015 concluded that blanket residency restrictions and enforcement are unconstitutional.

Ms. Bellucci, the executive director of the Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offender Laws (ACSOL), filed the suit on behalf of Martin Weiss, a registered sex offender from North Hollywood. Numerous cities in California have amended restrictions due to Ms. Bellucci’s complaints, including Upland, Highland, Twentynine Palms, La Verne, Arcadia, San Dimas and Pomona.

The amendments do not change the existing requirement that sex offenders have to register annually with the police department, Chief Vander Veen said.

This was the last city council meeting in 2017. The next council meeting is scheduled for January 9, 2018.

—Matthew Bramlett


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