After the drama and anticipation of its last meeting, during which the Council approved applications to seek millions of dollars in government grants, including over $40 million in a single application, a return to the mundane was bound to happen. For a meeting that sported a long and ominous agenda, the most substantive act at the July 27 City Council meeting was the delivery of heartfelt and appreciative goodbyes to Interim City Manager Rolanda B. Russell. (See story on page 5.)
The Administration and Public Works Committee kicked off the evening with a slew of relatively minor outlays. While funding for elm tree fungicide passed easily, funding for the quarterly Arts & Recreation magazine on recycled paper sparked a discussion about moving more toward online registration, but it ultimately passed without opposition.
The City’s finance department noticed an error in bond levies submitted to the County. The error was caused by the failure to properly allocate tax levies between 1999 and 2008 bonds. Because City staff caught the error in time, there will be “no financial implications,” said Assistant City Manager Marty Lyons. Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, pressed Mr. Lyons for details, saying that, although she knows the City does not like to point fingers, she wanted to know who was responsible for the error. Mr. Lyons replied that the City’s bond counsel, its financial advisors and City staff all shared the blame. Ald. Rainey, speaking of bond counsel and financial advisors, did not hold back. “I think we should fire them,” she stated flatly.
The Planning and Development agenda contained 11 proposed ordinances, which ordinarily would make for a long, long night. Nine of the ordinances, however, simply corrected minor typographical or other errors within existing zoning ordinances, said Committee chair Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, and Ald. Rainey. Of the remaining two items, the expansion of the Seventh Day Adventist Church at 1825 Dodge Ave. and the variances involved in that expansion passed easily. The church will be expanding by 6,083 square feet with the construction of an addition.
The second item, an ordinance granting a special use for a child daycare center at 526 Davis St., met with some resistance. Although she is not a member of the Planning and Development Committee, First Ward Alderman Judy Fiske attended the meeting to ask the Committee to hold the item. She said she was concerned about several things: the use of storefront space for daycare instead of retail, the parking requirements and the number of children who would potentially stay at the facility.
“I am concerned about that number of children in a relatively small space,” said Ald. Fiske. Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, told Ald. Fiske that the State Department of Children and Family Services controlled the number of children allowed in the space available. Alderman Donald Wilson, 4th Ward agreed, saying, “I don’t feel comfortable trying to second-guess DCFS.” The ordinance passed out of committee by a 5-0 vote.
It returned at the Council level, however, with Ald. Fiske insisting on an amendment regarding parking by parents picking up children in the afternoon. Saying she was concerned about possible double-parking on Davis Street during rush hour, Ald. Fiske said she was not satisfied that the requirement of eight dedicated parking spaces off the alley behind the proposed center adequately protected against rogue parking behavior. Ald. Wynne proposed an amendment requiring parents to be notified by the center upon enrollment that double-parking on Davis Street is prohibited, and Ald. Fiske reluctantly agreed. Look for the new daycare center to begin operations in October.
Saying goodbye to Interim City Manager Russell was all that remained. During the call of the wards, each alderman took time to personally thank Ms. Russell and wish her well. At the next Council meeting, a new City Manager, Walter J. (“Wally”) Bobkiewicz, will take over.