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Police committee moves forward with parcel tax financing option

The Police Station Citizen’s Advisory Committee (PSCAC) has settled on a funding mechanism for a future ballot measure.

The committee voted nearly unanimously last Wednesday to back a parcel tax based on square footage, with 10 votes in favor and two abstentions. Committee member Jim Keith put forth the motion. Sally Seven and John Jocelyn abstained.

The committee has been meeting since late last year to hammer out a ballot measure to either replace or retrofit the aging Claremont police station. This will be the third such ballot measure to be placed before voters since 2015.

The meeting was over three and a half hours of discussion not only about the funding mechanism of the future ballot measure, but about the intricacies of a retrofit’s construction costs.

An updated estimate of how much a retrofit would cost over time was presented to the committee, following Mr. Keith’s request for more information after the building cost was revealed to be around $18.9 million in 2019 dollars at the last meeting.

According to a chart provided by IDS Group, the building cost for the retrofit in 2019 dollars would be $18,370,000. Adding in one-year cost escalations from May 2020 to April 2022, plus an extra contingency for new regulations, codes, tariffs and soft costs, amounts to $22,337,865.

Comparatively, using the same cost escalations in 2018 dollars, a brand-new station build would ultimately cost $31,553,673, according to IDS Group’s estimates.

Ali Cayir of Transtech, which worked with IDS on formulating the proposal, noted the cost also includes gutting the entire building, replacing sewer lines and asbestos remediation.

“Not only are we going to gut everything within the building, we’re going to actually install brand-new service lines,” Mr. Cayir said.

The city is currently looking for grants to cover roughly $2 million in seismic retrofits, which City Manager Tara Schultz says would safeguard police staff in the near term.

“The reality is I have people working in that building right now, and I need to make that building safe as quickly as possible,” she said. “And this building or the retrofit may not happen as soon as I need that to happen.”

Seismic retrofits would also be included in the overall cost to retrofit the building, Mr. Cayir said, opening the door for a possibly smaller total in order to avoid overlapping costs if the city does its own retrofits before the bond is passed.

During public comment, Ludd Trozpek brought up the size of the proposed station retrofit that the committee was working with—26,000 square feet, the same size as the proposed station under Measure SC. He noted that both police stations in Upland and La Verne were smaller, and the committee should look into reducing the size of Claremont’s station.

“If you were to take 400 square feet per sworn officer times 40 officers, that would be 16,000 square feet,” he said. “So you can lob 10,000 square feet off this station and still be in the ballpark of what your adjacent neighbors are.”

Mr. Keith, a member of the last committee, said that Upland’s officers were moving utilities outside to make more room for their staff. “So our target, in my mind, is not to target an existing full station next door,” he said.

Ms. Schultz said the square footage was based on what police determined was necessary.

“It wasn’t to look at extra spaces or any extravagance, it was really to look at what was needed,” she said.

A disagreement arose between Committee Chair Matt Magilke and Police Chief Shelly Vander Veen over how the current target size of 26,000 square feet came to be in the first place. Mr. Magilke claimed the Measure SC committee settled on the $25 million bond amount first, and the police filled in what they needed within that amount.

The chief vehemently disagreed, emphasizing that she worked closely with the previous committee to first reduce the 50,000-square-foot Measure PS building to an acceptable size at the current station site.

“There was no money talk at that point, it was just what can we do to reduce the size to a reasonable building that could fit on the Bonita site,” Chief Vander Veen said.

Committee decides on parcel tax

One decision made at the meeting was how the next police station, in whatever iteration, will be funded.

The committee was presented with options from Claremont Finance Director Adam Pirrie—including a general obligation bond based on assessed value (the same funding mechanism under Measure SC), and two versions of a parcel tax—a fixed rate or one based on square footage of real property on a parcel.

All funding mechanisms require a two-thirds voter approval—which has been a difficult hurdle to overcome for advocates of the two previous bond measures.

Under the $22.3 million total price tag for the retrofit over 25 years, the GO bond rate would come out to $26.50 per year per $100,000 of assessed value, slightly fewer than Measure SC’s rate of $30.33 per year. A flat rate parcel tax would come out to $131.12 per year per parcel, while a parcel tax on square footage would come out to 4.44 cents per square foot.

Compared to a new station at around $31.6 million over the same lifetime, the rate would be $37.44 per year under a GO bond, $185.18 rate per year per parcel, and 6.28 cents per square foot under a square footage parcel tax.

Other financing options were also discussed, including impact fees, which were brought up by committee member Beth Pfau. At one point, Mr. Magilke and Mr. Pirrie had a back-and-forth discussion about how much a proposed sales tax increase would yield for the city and whether or not that would pay for some of the bond.

Mr. Keith noted all money going toward the bond should go through a parcel tax on square footage and said other methods of funding wouldn’t work.

“If we’re going to come up with a plan that works, I think we can’t depend upon the city coming up with other sources of income, because they’re looking at those other sources to keep running,” he said.

Committee member John Jocelyn said he wasn’t comfortable with going forward with a proposal that didn’t include budget cuts and mentioned the city’s water system trial. “If we just stopped doing that, we could have had a new police station by now,” he said.

Mr. Keith’s proposal ultimately passed. The next committee meeting is scheduled for June 12.

—Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com

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