Police station advisory committee on hold while waiting for studies

The last two meetings of the Police Station Citizens Advisory Committee have been cancelled and two members have resigned, putting the committee at a standstill.

The meetings have been cancelled due to a lack of business, according to official notices given out by the city. The last meeting of the committee took place on December 11, 2018.

Committee chair Matt Magilke says the meetings have been cancelled because the city is still waiting for an engineer’s report on two studies—whether the city yard complex can be retrofitted into police station standards, or if a second floor can be built upon the existing station.

Mr. Magilke believes the previous city council is responsible the delay. The committee had requested $15,000 each for two separate studies—one to determine if the current police station could be retrofitted and a second to review the city yard building for future use as a police station. Former council members Sam Pedroza, Opanyi Nasiali and Joe Lyons and current council members Corey Calaycay and Larry Schroeder voted 5-0 in October 2018 to deny the funds and to send the matter back to the committee for more review.

The committee discussed the need for the studies in November and, after determining it wanted a new exploration of the current police station, the request for the funds was sent back to the council for approval a second time in December 2018. The council—with three new members—unanimously approved the funds during its first meeting of 2019.

At the January meeting, former Assistant City Manager Colin Tudor said the studies would be finished in roughly two months.

In an email, Claremont City Manager Tara Schultz said that while there was a delay due to the upcoming engineer’s reports, “I am hoping that we will get back on track with the next meeting of the Police Station Citizens Advisory Committee.”

Mr. Magilke said that the delay in approving the studies has put the committee “behind the ball.”

“Everything’s been pushed back for two months now,” he said.

When the committee was created by then-Mayor Opanyi Nasiali, the plan was for the 15-member group to meet several times up until May 8, 2019, with an ultimate goal of placing a police station measure on the March 2020 ballot.

It would be the third police station measure to appear on Claremont ballots since 2015—both Measure PS and Measure SC failed in 2015 and 2018, respectively.

The question now, Mr. Magilke said, is whether or not the committee can meet those deadlines.

“I don’t know if that’s going to be possible now,” he said.

When asked about the May 8 deadline, Ms. Schultz said she didn’t know if the committee would wrap up by that time.

“We might need a couple more meetings,” she said.

Ms. Schultz also noted that she was working with Mr. Schroeder on finding nearly $2 million in funding to pay for seismic and safety improvements to keep things in the station running safely.

“The $2 million will not be enough to do all the improvements that the current station needs, nor will it build a new facility,” she added. “But it will make the current building safer, which is very important.”

The committee also has seen two resignations from its ranks over the past few months.

John Watkins, who was a vocal opponent of Measure SC, told the COURIER he resigned from the committee because he was too busy with work commitments.

“I thought it would be unfair to be in and out and in and out,” he said.

Matthew Jones also resigned from the committee in part over a dispute with city’s planning department regarding a deck he was planning to build at his home.

In an email to the COURIER, Mr. Jones went into further detail, highlighting two “red flags” that led to his resignation—the first was the spotty schedule; the second was the focus on finances and discussion about whether the station needed to be “rebuilt.”

His ideas about reaching out to younger voters by publicly acknowledging that previous generations had dropped the ball and that newer residents were key to solving the problem were dismissed, he said.

“If younger voters are going to be paying more for the project, the least we can do is try to make them feel good about it,” he said. “I did speak at length during my last meeting, but was interrupted by another committee member who said I don’t know what I’m talking about.”

Mr. Jones says he left his last committee meeting feeling frustrated.

“I decided to apply to the committee because I believe the police station absolutely needs to be addressed and that the previous measure failed because of a lack of concise messaging and quality communication to us residents,”?he said.

His hope was to have seen Measure SC modified a little, repackaged and presented again to voters.

“Measure SC was a close race but the direction the committee was taking was a complete overhaul and reinvention of the wheel from scratch—in just one year. Not going to happen, successfully.

“There is a big push for the station to be rehabbed, but I feel that’s just putting a band-aid on the station, further kicking the can down the road,” he added.

The next Police Station Citizens Advisory Committee meeting will take place on April 17.

—Matthew Bramlett



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