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Tension runs high at city council meeting Tuesday

Frustration abounded as the city council scrutinized a possible interim fix to the police station.

The council voted 4-1 to send out a request for proposals (RFP) to look at price tags to make modest seismic repairs to the interior of the station.

According to representatives from Irvine-based IDS Group and Chino Hills-based Transtech, that number could be anywhere between $200,000 to $400,000. Mayor Opanyi Nasiali was the dissenting vote.

The council also voted unanimously to send two $15,000 requests back to the Police Station Citizens’ Advisory Committee (PSCAC) for further review. One was to pay for a study on what level of structural seismic improvements could be made to the station and the other was to look into possibly retrofitting the city yard building to police station standards.

City Manager Tara Schultz noted that the main priority was to keep those who are working within the police station safe.

“The reality is that we’re going to be in that building for a little bit of time while the [PSCAC] goes through their process, makes a recommendation to the city council and gets something to the ballot,” Ms. Schultz told the council at the beginning of the presentation.

The council’s decision came a week after the PSCAC heard from representatives of two engineering firms that did an environmental and structural analysis of the current station.

Ali Cayir of Transtech and David Pomerleau of IDS Group were on hand to present the findings of the study to the council.

The council was presented with a potential six phase plan to move forward with the police station—the first path was to ensure safety improvements inside the building, which the city says needs to be made regardless of what the citizen’s committee ultimately decides.

The proposed improvements include supporting lights and mechanical registers in the ceiling, bracing partitions, anchoring tall and narrow furniture, installation of flexible gas line connections on mechanical equipment, and the repair of concrete spalls (or flakes) on the outside of the building.

The city still needs to go out to bid to figure out a specific price, but the report estimated it would cost anywhere between $200,000 to $400,000, 20 percent of which would go toward updating the station for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The reason for the broad estimate, Mr. Cayir explained, was to allow room for unexpected outcomes like asbestos or mold abatement, contaminants that he said could be easily dealt with.

Paths two and three deal with structural safety improvements. IDS Group agreed with the previous architect, WMM Associates, that the current station was seismically unsound, but rather than tear it down, IDS found a different perspective.

There was some confusion about whether WMM had conducted the earlier study from the standpoint of retrofit or from the persepctive of tearing the old station down.

To that question, Assistant City Manager Colin Tudor stated in an email to the COURIER:

“WMM Associates was brought in to both evaluate the building for seismic safety, possibilities of retrofit and reuse and evaluate the possibility of fitting a new building on the current site. Their scope also included reconsidering the program analysis of the needs of the police department to make sure the needs of the department could be met in either a retrofit and reuse or a new building.

With both WMM and IDS, they started with similar scopes of work to evaluate the current building and had similar structural findings, but through their analysis they came to different conclusions about what may be the most cost effective path forward.”

 

IDS said that at a cost of $1.5 million, interim safety improvements could be made that would include roof-to-wall connections, wall-to-foundation connections, ceiling support and bracing, partition bracing, flexible connections for gas-fired equipment and bracing and support for mechanical and electrical equipment.

Mr. Cayir said the $1.5 million figure is a range, and the city can prioritize certain improvements for a lower cost based on safety and risk concerns, or limit the improvements overall if the city decides to go with an entirely new building.

“It’s a reasonable range based on our experience and IDS’ experience on similar improvements,” Mr. Cayir said.

Last week, city spokesperson Bevin Handel pointed out that that the estimate only covers structural and seismic improvements, and does not include space issues and other concerns such as an outdated jail and a lack of legitimate locker rooms for female officers.

The council was asked to authorize $15,000 to conduct an additional study on the feasibility of adding on to the current station—including determining the costs and possibility of building a second floor.

Mr. Cayir explained that a second-floor addition could probably be done for an estimated cost of $10 million—$1,000 per square foot, if they decided on a 10,000 square foot addition—and could work in phases.

After retrofitting the current station, columns could be built on each corner of the old building to support the second story. Once the second story was completed to essential services standards, the department would move to the second floor while the first floor was renovated. But a casualty of that renovation would be the jail—Mr. Cayir said if the first floor were retrofitted, the jail would have to be removed.

Both Mr. Cayir and Mr. Pomerleau reiterated during the meeting that a definitive study on adding a second story to the station has not yet been done. The $15,000 request that would have paid for the study was sent back to the committee by the council.

Much of the council reacted to the proposal with a mixture of frustration and confusion. This portion of the meeting went on for over an hour, with Mr. Nasiali telling the engineers that felt “uneasy” about the report.

Mr. Nasiali appeared confused by the purpose of further study, challenging Mr. Cayir as to why his firm needed more money to make additional determinations about the outcomes of potentially retrofitting the current station.

He also said he thought the community would be led to think that $1.5 million would be a cure-all for the station.

“That’s the impression being left behind for the public to perceive, and I’m very uneasy about that,” Mr. Nasiali said.

Councilmember Larry Schroeder point-blank asked if the $200,000 to $400,000 would make the station safe for the employees to do their jobs.

“Yes, that’s the intent, yes,” Mr. Pomerleau said.

During public comment, PSCAC Chair Matt Magilke expressed concern that a slide in the council presentation highlighting the “consistencies” between IDS and the previous engineering firm, WMM Associates, over the condition of the building was not included in the packet and presentation to the committee last week.

In the council’s presentation, Mr. Magilke said slides were missing that showed that renovating the current station would cost less than building a new facility.

“So we were told very clearly,” he said. “We were very clear, we understood that the $1.5 million wasn’t going to fix all the things in the building; it was just to keep the roof from falling on the employees.”

Ms. Schultz responded that the slide highlighting IDS’ and WMM’s agreements was added by the city to the council’s presentation in response to questions that came up during the committee meeting. The other slides were not included because she said she wanted the council to focus on seeking additional review of the station.

Councilmember Joe Lyons used part of his time to admonish the COURIER for what he called “misreporting,” noting that the paper had framed the possibility of retrofitting the station in last week’s article as something that hadn’t come up before, when he said it had during numerous public meetings.

Councilmember Sam Pedroza agreed an RFP was needed, but bemoaned the idea that the city should take the cheapest route to a new station, as opposed to the best route. He was leery about looking at the city yard building, saying that the community previously said they were against the idea. 

He also lamented what he saw as apparent mistrust in the council from the public, noting that if residents believed that $1.5 million was going to fix the problems at the station, it was “game over.”

“This is your quote, COURIER, ‘I’m checked out.’ You guys can go to town with that one,” Mr. Pedroza said to two newspaper staffers who attended the meeting.

Mr. Nasiali agreed with Mr. Pedroza, and wanted the public to know that a safe police station could not be done “on the cheap.”

“If people believe we can do it, that we can fix the seismic problems for a million and a half dollars and we are done, that is foolish,” he said. “Because the need is not just seismic safety, there are other things that need to be done to provide the department what it needs to do their job.”

In the end, the RPF request was passed, 4-1. The council also voted 5-0 to kick back the two $15,000 proposals to the committee for further review.

Mayor Pro Tem Corey Calaycay was concerned that the committee wasn’t given all the information in the council’s presentation and he wanted the committee to “have all the tools to do their job.”

The next council meeting will be on November 13. More on Tuesday night’s meeting will be in next week’s issue of the COURIER.

—Matthew Bramlett

Kathryn Dunn

editor@claremont-courier.com

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