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Receptive audience hears latest plan for bond measure

The police station bond measure campaign is in full swing, and it made its debut to a receptive crowd at the Democratic Club of Claremont meeting Monday evening.

Claremont Police Chief Shelly Vander Veen, Mayor Larry Schroeder, Finance Director Adam Pirrie and campaign co-chair Ed Reece spoke to the group about the city’s need for a new police station and the intricacies of the bond.

Chief Vander Veen told the audience at Pilgrim Place the current station was woefully inadequate. It was built in 1972 and made for an all-male department with half the current force’s size—female officers change in a locker room in a separate portable building.

The facility can’t withstand current technology, she said.

“To put it simply, our dispatchers can’t turn on a portable heater because they’ll blow the circuit, so we have to be very careful on things that we add to our existing electrical system because it just can’t hold any more,” the chief said.

The construction plan, if it passes, is to build the new facility just west of the current station, move the department into the new building once its completed and tear down the old station in favor of a parking lot.

Chief Vander Veen noted the cost and size of the current plan is a 45 percent reduction from Measure PS, which was rejected by the voters in 2015.

“We heard you, and we put a lot of work with the ad hoc committee to come up with this design,” she said.

Mr. Pirrie went over the specifics of the funding mechanism, which is a general obligation bond based on the assessed value of a home.

The $25 million price tag includes $23.5 million of debt issuance and $1.5 million paid by the city for furniture, fixtures and equipment. This estimate assumes that no grant funding would be available for the project, but the door is still open, Mr. Pirrie noted.

“That’s not to say we won’t continue to pursue these [grant] opportunities,” he said. “We will continue to work hard in Washington and at a state level to try and find grants to fund as much of the project as we can.”

A GO bond, he said, was the most common form of debt issuance for this kind of a project. Under the terms of the GO bond, colleges, churches, private schools and other nonprofits are exempt from paying into the bond.

The average payment would be around $24.47 per $100,000 of assessed value. A home with a $500,000 assessed value, for instance, would pay around $155.55 a year, Mr. Pirrie said.

Sandy Hester asked if there was a plan for low-income residents or those on a fixed income who might have trouble paying the bond.

“Will there be some kind of accommodation or process by which you’d consider maybe case-by-case?” she asked.

Mr. Pirrie said the city would have to look into whether they could provide a subsidy for those who qualify, but explained that it would come at a cost.

“The city would have to take money from the general fund to make up the difference for those properties, but I don’t know at the moment whether that’s even possible,” Mr. Pirrie said.

The topic of the Claremont Colleges contributing financially dominated the question-and-answer portion of the meeting, with many in attendance asking how much the Colleges would pony up, if at all.

Mr. Schroeder said he would be meeting with the Colleges the following morning—along with Mayor Pro Tem Opanyi Nasiali, City Manager Tony Ramos, Claremont Colleges CEO Stig Lanesskog and Harvey Mudd College President Maria Klawe—to discuss a possible contribution.

Mr. Schroeder said the Colleges have talked about a “roundabout figure” of $1 million, though he hopes for more.

The Colleges have said previously they would only pay into the bond a figure equivalent to the percentage of calls for service to the campuses. That figure hovers around three percent, which is equal to approximately $750,000.

Mr. Schroeder told the crowd that the Claremont Police Department’s influence at the Colleges goes beyond just 911 calls. 

“We supply more than just services—active shooter training, a lot of time involved with bike thefts and other things to the Colleges,” he said. “So, we’re going to hit them hard tomorrow and see what happens.”

When the COURIER called Mr. Schroeder on Wednesday to ask about the meeting, he would only say there was an amount discussed, but nothing was decided. He did not share what that number was.

“We talked about their contribution and what that might be, and we’re going to see what they come back with from the council [of college presidents],” he said.

Ms. Klawe was traveling on Wednesday and was unavailable for comment. In a statement provided to the COURIER, Mr. Lanesskog said the discussion is still ongoing.

“We continue to be in discussions with the city and at this time no decision has been made about the potential of a contribution from the Colleges to the police department,” the statement read. “We appreciate being part of the conversation.”

Mr. Lanesskog was a member of the police facility ad hoc committee, a 15-member body that formulated the details of this new bond measure.

Karen Rosenthal put forth the idea that the “court of public opinion” could be used to get the Colleges to contribute, emphasizing that most residents will question whether $1 million is enough.

“We love living in a college community, but they really should be doing their fair share,” she said.

Andy Winnick wondered why the city hadn’t gone down other avenues, such as churches or other nonprofits, to look for further contributions.

Mr. Schroeder expressed confidence there would be many other funding sources in the future if the bond were passed, especially from county and state officials.

“Once the bond issue passes, and you’re a county supervisor or an assemblyman or a state senator and you have some controlled money, that’s a winning proposition to contribute to,” Mr. Schroeder said.

—Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com

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