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Mary Rita Luecke

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March 19, 2018

2/21/2018 3:02:00 PM
Highlights from the Feb. 12 City Council Meeting
by Shawn Jones

Recent City Council meetings have stretched long into the night with large development projects and other controversial matters eliciting extended public participation and often testy, borderline angry exchanges in Council chambers. Feb. 12 was a calmer, more straightforward meeting. Yet somehow it felt more like the eye of a hurricane than a shift.

The evening began at Administration and Public Works, with funding for a water plant filter study. A sparse committee of three chaired temporarily by Alderman Tom Suffredin, 6th Ward, because Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, was running late, grappled with the $126,033 contract, another in a long line of regular large Water Department expenses.

The filter study is part of regular upgrades to the Water Department facility, said Lara Biggs, the City’s Bureau Chief for Capital Planning. “We thought maybe we might demolish this” part of the plant, she said, in order to increase capacity for water sales to other communities. The time has come, though, to study the best approach to maintaining or replacing the west plant filter, and this study will provide that information.

Sticking with water projects, the 2525 Church “splash park” was on the agenda, but only in the form of connecting pipes. Morton Grove and Niles plan to build an intermediate booster pump station at the location, and as part of a memorandum of understanding between those communities and Evanston, they will provide restroom space and water pipe and electricity connections so Evanston can easily add restroom facilities if and when the splash park is added.

According to Dave Stoneback, the City’s Director of Public Works, the booster station was originally supposed to be in Skokie, but Skokie recently refused to allow it. Fortunately, the City recently agreed to a long-term lease for the property from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.

Engineering for the demolition of the existing Shore School was also included Monday night, at a cost of about $12,000. The demolition cost itself “is expected to be much higher, estimated at $250,000 to $300,000,” Mr. Stoneback said.

“Right now we do not have money for the [water] park,” said Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward. “When we move forward we will have meetings seeking community input” designing and laying out the park itself, she said. “We will not move forward until we have a series of very transparent and open meetings.” A water park is the ultimate goal, but design and construction, as well as funding, are all for future consideration.

The Dempster Beach administrative building project returned seeking another change order. “At this point, how much would it have cost to build an entirely new beach office?” asked Ald. Suffredin.

With the Clark Street restroom building costing more than $1 million several years ago, said Ms. Biggs, the cost would have been far more than the now-$281,000 repair project. The multiple change orders were all legitimate, she said, and based on surprising conditions like missing bricks and insufficient joists. Initially, the project contracted for less than $250,000.

Another change order struck the Church Street South Pier reconstruction project. For now, the change adds only time. But according to Ms. Biggs, “The EPA changed its requirement for how much sediment can be disturbed” in such projects. The change is “likely to increase the construction costs as well.” Stay tuned for more as the project unfolds.

Council introduced an ordinance that will, if passed, permit the City to seek Civil Restitution penalties for certain ordinance violations. These penalties could only be added at cases before Skokie judges and not City administrative hearings, said Assistant City Attorney Alexandra Mackey. “The court could order restitution to pay for the cost of cleaning up vandalism or any other property damage,” she said. Council will review and debate the ramifications, including potential hefty fines attached to relatively minor offenses, at the next meeting.

At Council, Director of Parks and Recreation Lawrence Hemingway discussed problems that befell the City’s online summer camp registration process on the previous Saturday. In-person registration proceeded as planned, but the online system crashed.

“We identified some likely factors” causing the crash, said Luke Stowe, the City’s Chief Information Officer. Recommendations included increasing CPUs and extending the timeout session time – the time period after which a visitor is kicked out of the system. He said the system would undergo a full stress test before the next try on Feb. 17.

Mr. Hemingway said the in-person signup worked, and staff processed 748 people at the Levy Center. All applicants were processed, and everyone got into the camp of their choice, he said.

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