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City council wrangles over possible bond

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The La Verne City Council is considering asking city voters to approve a 2009 bond measure to update and expand the city’s police and fire facilities.

Mayor Jon Blickenstaff and three of the five council members favor the bond that would give the city around $20 million to build a new fire station and renovate the police station on Third Street, which is currently used by both police and fire departments.

“This, we feel would meet the needs in the future,” Blickenstaff said.

Both police and fire fighters work in the shared building on Third Street in downtown La Verne and they are quickly running out of space, according to police officers and others who attended the March 3 council meeting.

Council Member and Mayor Pro Tem Steven Johnson is the only council member who does not feel the city should move forward with a bond in 2009.

“I am not supporting this bond measure right at the moment,” Johnson said. Johnson said he believes the timing is not right to ask residents to support this bond, which would add about $200 a year to the average property owner’s tax bill.

Johnson said he wants to see the outcome of the projected recession and the current financial situation of the country before he makes a decision to support the bond.

“I hope that this bond measure does get put on the ballot,” Norm Faustini, a volunteer for the La Verne Police Department said at the March 3 meeting.

He said the police and volunteers do not have enough space for equipment or meetings.

Faustini and other volunteers are responsible for much of the drunk driving equipment used to catch violators.

“We have to look at what the people need working in these facilities, they are difficult quarters,” Faustini said. “It is like being in the same household as your mother-in-law, it just does not work.”

Since the fire station combination police station was built in 1980, the number of employees has more than doubled.

When the station was built, very few women worked in the building and the current facilities are not prepared to handle women and men together.

Firefighters have had to turn closets into bedrooms because of the lack of space.

Blickenstaff cited a newspaper article that gave information about the response time of police and sheriff departments in cities surrounding La Verne.

He said the response time of the La Verne Police Department is less than two minutes, compared to San Dimas, which is over three minutes.

“We have three 24 hour, 365 day paramedic response units,” Blickenstaff said. “No city in the county can come close to those numbers.”

Many at the council meeting expressed fear that the problem with space at the department on Third Street will start to affect the quality of service the city receives.

“There is no out of this, it is just not going to go away,” Felicia Whittle, a police volunteer said.

To attempt to keep up with the growing demands, both departments are adding on to their shared building.

The remodel will add a little more than 1 thousand square feet.

Part of the new space will include an emergency response room and an area for dispatchers that is away from the public view.

“We are looking at other facilities,” Johnson said.

Johnson and other council members are not in agreement and because they are representative of the community, research is required to see where the residents of La Verne stand on the issue before money is spent to add the bond to the ballot.

“It really upsets me that we are not united on this issue,” Councilwoman Donna Nasmyth said. “Even working under deplorable conditions, they are able to go out and do an exceptional job.”

Nasmyth and Blickenstaff have formed a new committee to determine whether or not they will pursue placing the bond on the ballot.

Council members will meet in April to discuss the issue with the new committee.

Susan Acker can be reached at sacker@ulv.edu.

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