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6/19/2013 3:18:00 PM
One Step Forward, One Back For Grandmother Park
By Shawn Jones

The Grandmother Park Initiative (GPI) took one step closer to constructing a tot lot at 1125 Dewey Ave. on, June 10, but then took one step back as City Council required the group to get at least three estimates before allocating construction funds. After raising nearly $200,000 in private funds, the GPI must now wait at least two weeks before breaking ground on the new park.

The matter came to the Administration and Public Works Committee with a staff recommendation that Council allocate funds based on a no-bid process. Nature’s Perspective, an Evanston-based landscape company, has been working with the GPI from the outset and has donated time and expertise to the process. Such close involvement was not enough to overcome Council’s desire to require competitive estimates, if not formal bids.

“It just will be much more transparent,” said Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, pushed the issue, saying the bid process was critical to City contracts. She called for an “Evanston-only bid process,” meaning only Evanston-based contractors are eligible.

Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, said the added time needed to obtain estimates could end up costing more than any potential savings, due to the accumulation of interest and carrying costs. But Marty Lyons, the City’s CFO, said the City already had a 70-page bid package prepared and the specifications were readily available. The Committee concluded that the bid process should be completed in as little as two weeks.

The Committee’s decision to require estimates elicited, for the first time in recent memory, a modicum of praise from frequent City critic Junad Rizki. Mr. Rizki said the Committee “acted responsibly” in requiring bids, but tempered his praise by criticizing the “Evanston only” component and questioning whether estimates rather than formal bids were sufficient.

Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, long an opponent of the Grandmother Park concept, was the lone Council critic, saying, “This park is not needed.” She questioned the cost, and the lost tax revenue caused by removing the vacant lot from the City’s property tax rolls. She was alone.

The initiative took one step back, but it may be only a brief two-week setback. Estimates are expected soon, and once in and processed, barring a significant shift in Council sentiment, construction is expected to begin within three to four weeks.

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