Claremont will try again to fund new police station June 5

The police station ballot measure got the official go-ahead from the city council Tuesday night.

The council voted unanimously to adopt resolutions of necessity outlining the public desire for a new facility, and to officially place the measure on the June 5 ballot.

The council seemed confident the general obligation (GO) bond was the right package for a successful ballot measure.

“We’re doing what our residents asked us to do,” Councilmember Sam Pedroza said, echoing the past failure of Measure PS. “I’ve said before that in Claremont, sometimes failure becomes a success when you do it right and when you learn from it. Tonight’s action is a learned lesson.”

It could still be a tough road ahead. The bond requires a two-thirds majority vote to pass, and based on comment cards collected by the city during informational meetings late last year, at least some members of the public remain divided on the funding mechanism of the station.

The bond calls for $25 million—$23.5 million in bond issuances and $1.5 million from the city for furniture, fixtures and other soft costs—to be paid over 25 years. The 26,000 square foot facility would be built at the same location as the current station.

A possible contribution by the Claremont Colleges has not been finalized, but City Manager Tony Ramos told the COURIER that a meeting between him, Mayor Larry Schroeder, Mayor Pro Tem Opanyi Nasiali, Claremont Colleges CEO Stig Lanesskog and two college presidents will happen within the next two weeks to see what that contribution could look like.

The GO bond is an annual ad valorem tax—meaning a tax based on the assessed value of a Claremont home. Finance Director Adam Pirrie noted that property owners would pay $30.33 per $100,000 of a home’s assessed value, which means a homeowner would pay $151.65 in the first year if their home were assessed at $500,000.

Mr. Pirrie claimed in his report that as the assessed values increase over the next quarter-century, the payments would decrease, potentially falling to $24.47 per $100,000 of assessed value.

The question that will be brought to voters in the ballot box reads, in full:

“Shall the measure to impose an ad valorem tax on real property located in the City of Claremont at the maximum rate of $30.33 per $100,000 of assessed value, for a maximum term of 25 years, to annually raise an estimated $1.55 million through the sale of general obligation bonds with net proceeds of $23.5 million for construction of a new city police facility that will replace the existing 45-year-old substandard police facility, be adopted?”

This is the second go-around for a new police station in three years. Measure PS, a fixed parcel tax of $50 million to be paid over 40 years for a facility on the eastern edge of town, failed at the ballot box in November 2015. The fixed-rate parcel tax would have cost Claremont homeowners $286 per year per parcel.

This new bond measure was the result of yearlong meetings of a 15-member ad hoc committee, comprised of supporters and detractors of Measure PS. The new bond, which has yet to receive a name, slices the overall cost in half and changes the financing method.

During public comment, Betty Crocker, who will be spearheading the bond measure’s campaign along with Ed Reece, characterized the measure as a local investment to maintain the quality of life in Claremont for future generations.

“Two-thirds is going to be a big number, and it’s going to be a lot of fun raising this barn,” Ms. Crocker said. “I look forward to connecting with all our neighbors and our supporters. Lord knows we need them all.”

Earlier in the meeting, Jennifer Stark responded to critics calling for the LA Sheriff’s Department to contract with Claremont as an alternative to financing the new police station. She called the idea of such a large sheriff’s department in Claremont “untenable.”

“Our police officers serve this community, and many have for their entire careers,” she said. “We witnessed people graduating from high school and going into law enforcement for our city. It’s a dedication that you really can’t put a price tag on.”

The council was unanimously in support. Both Mr. Schroeder and Councilmember Joe Lyons said that replacing the station has been an ongoing issue even before they were elected to the council.

Mr. Lyons remarked that he was “proud that we have come to this point, and proud that it will be settled on my watch.”

As the roll call vote finished and some cheers rang out from supporters of the measure, Mr. Schroeder said, “We’re on our way, this time for sure.”


Ramos gets big sendoff

Tuesday’s meeting was also the last for outgoing City Manager Tony Ramos, and the council did not let him leave without some congratulations. Mr. Ramos’ last day as city manager is February 5.

After introducing new commissioners, Mayor Larry Schroeder beckoned Mr. Ramos from his sideline chair to the front of the room to be recognized.

Mr. Schroeder characterized Mr. Ramos, who has been city manager since 2011, as the “the right person for the job at this time.”

“I have been in this business for a long time, as finance director, as a commissioner and now as councilmember,” he said. “And he is just one of the best city managers around.”

Mr. Ramos used his time to thank his staff, noting the city would not be what it is without them.

“Claremont is an incredibly unique place, and I have been fortunate to be your city manager,” he said.

Later in the meeting, Mr. Ramos noted that one of the main things he would look back on was how the council took risks and did so while remaining respectful to each other.

“And that is, for any city manager, a dream job,” he said.

The council also passed an appointment for Mr. Ramos to serve as a “City Manager Transition Consultant” until Thursday, February 15 to allow for a seamless transition between him and incoming city manager Tara Schultz.


Homeless services agreement

The council also unanimously approved entering into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments in an ongoing effort to fight homelessness in the city.

According to Human Services Director Anne Turner, the MOU allows a consultant to meet with the city to provide insight, review Claremont’s current initiative to combat homelessness and provide recommendations on how to fill any gaps that may exist in the city’s work.

The total cost of the project is $30,000, to be paid for by a grant from the Home for Good Funders Collaborative and the LA County Homelessness Initiative. The city was awarded the grant in October 2017.

The next city council meeting will take place on February 13.

—Matthew Bramlett


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