The era of midnight meetings has returned to Evanston, as recent Monday meetings have seen the clock turn to Tuesday more than once. An invigorated, active and engaged community and important, compelling issues combine to encourage long meetings, as Council wrestles with how best to address a budget crunch, increasing wealth disparity, pension shortfalls, and numerous other critical matters.
At the same time, the day-to-day operations of the City continue, occasionally highlighted as they touch upon important issues of the day but often simply slipping past with price-tags attached as projects move through the pipeline.
Oct. 23 saw Council approve a nearly $580,000 contract for the inspection of three large- diameter water mains installed in 1956, 1960, and 1964. Robotic video inspection will provide a “prioritized list of necessary repairs and a determination of the remaining useful life,” according to the staff memo.
Public Works Agency Director Dave Stoneback called the three water mains “very critical mains in the City of Evanston.” He said because the mains serve wholesale water customers like Skokie, customers will share in the inspection costs.
Residents and City staff likely hope the robots do not find anything requiring immediate costly repairs.
Luke Stowe, the City’s Chief Information Officer, said staff will be leaving behind the paper- and-pencil and Microsoft Access method of keeping up with rental inspection and registration to enter the age of software. GovServe software package, at a cost of less than $22,000 a year plus a one-time $18,000 implementation fee, will take over. “This will be a dramatic improvement of our process,” said Mr. Stowe.
“If this works like it says it does, this is a phenomenal improvement,” said Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward. “A dream come true.”
Following on the heels of the ongoing FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) debate, the City adopted an Open Data Policy. The three-page policy seeks to provide as much data to residents as possible, and according to staff, “will demonstrate the City’s ongoing commitment to open data, transparency and efficient City services.” More information can be found on the City’s website at https://www.cityofevanston.org/government/transparency/open-data
The typical liquor license dance returned that night, with Jilly’s on Green Bay Road changing ownership. Now Rock ‘n Ravioli, it is nearing an open date. Sam’s Chicken and Ribs on Orrington Avenue, though, is closing. More interesting was the shift in the liquor license of the Farmhouse. The Hilton Orrington has apparently decided to shut down its restaurant and bar, leaving the Farmhouse as the room-service provider. Farmhouse shifts from a Class D to a Class C, and will deliver drinks to hotel rooms. It looks like “good bye” to the E Town Bistro.
The Administration and Public Works Committee declined to go along with two parking restrictions recommended by the Parking and Transportation Committee. A section of Kedzie Street between Sheridan Road and the Lake, adjacent to Clark Square Park, will not be restricted between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. Staff could not identify a particular reason to recommend the restriction, and Fleet Manager Rickey Voss called the residents’ reasoning “hypothetical only.” The three houses along the stretch “all have their own parking,” he said.
“All the parking [restrictions] should exclude people who paid the wheel tax,” said Ald. Rainey, who called the proposed restriction “really elitist.” When it came time to vote, the measure failed 0-5.
A Sheridan Square proposal to restrict 22 spaces near the South Boulevard Beach to “resident only” parking suffered the same fate. “We have something like this on Clyde Avenue,” said Ald. Rainey. “It’s called a City parking lot, and we charge $50 a month” for people to park there. “This is getting really, really over the top,” she added.
“We have curb parking all along the Union Pacific [railway], and we charge for that,” chimed in City Chief Financial Officer Marty Lyons.
“Let’s just vote it down and send it back,” said Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward. The committee did just that, sending the matter back into the lap of the Parking and Transportation Committee.