At the Feb. 22 City Council meeting aldermen heard presentations on capital projects and a sewer project, and approved several contracts and purchases. They approved the budget and capital improvement program for the fiscal year that began two days ago (see adjacent story). They postponed until their March 8 meeting votes on two matters that appeared to affect specific Evanston residents.
They also approved an ordinance that added a recycling requirement to five-unit buildings that use the Municipal Solid Waste Franchise. Groot, the company that has the franchise, must provide a 95-gallon recycling cart.
Two items on committee agendas earlier in the evening did not make it to the Council floor. At the request of City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, a proposed ordinance granting Mather Lifeways easements needed for the construction of a new building – particularly the underground passageway between the new Mather and the new Georgian across Davis Street from it – was held in the Administration and Public Works Committee. First Ward Alderman Judy Fiske said neighbors in the area were surprised by the fact that the item appeared as an ordinance on the Feb. 22 City Council agenda and she wished to discuss it at a ward meeting scheduled for March 2.
Representatives from the Citizens Lighthouse Community Land Trust, a not-for-profit developer of affordable housing in Evanston, requested an additional $20,000 in funding to help recoup their expenses in purchasing and rehabbing for sale a home that was in foreclosure. City staff recommended that the additional funding not be granted, saying that a subsidy at that new level – about 94 percent of the cost – was “unwarranted.” It appeared that a majority of the Planning and Development Committee members were willing to follow the staff recommendation and deny the additional funds, which Lighthouse Trust Executive Director Wilfred Gadsen said would be used to pay off a mortgage on the property. In the midst of the debate, however, Mr. Gadsen said some Lighthouse Trust board members had personally guaranteed the loan. At the request of Second Ward Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, the matter was held in committee so Mr. Gadsen could provide the aldermen with additional information about the nature of that loan.Denied
Paul D’Agostino, superintendent of the City’s Parks/Forestry division, said the state has not made such grants for the past two years. This would have been the City’s third application for the funds, he said, and the work would have begun in 2011. When the City first applied for the grant, the $500,000 was allocated in the City’s capital improvement program (CIP); after the state notified the City that it would not be making grants, the $500,000 was pushed back into the City’s 2011-12 CIP allocations, Mr. D’Agostino said, because that is when the work would have been done.
Most of the aldermen said they thought that rehabbing the bike path was not a top priority. Aldermen Jane Grover, 7th Ward, and Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, said they felt repairing the bike path was a “matter of child safety.” Ald. Grover said that when the bike path floods, it is not walkable, and children walking to Kingsley or Haven schools often walk on McCormick Boulevard instead.
This is the second time the Monday night meetings have been held under the new Council rules, under which the Administration and Public Works Committee begins at 5:30 p.m., the Planning and Development Committee begins 15 minutes after the end of that meeting, and the City Council meeting begins 15 minutes after the end of the Planning and Development Committee meeting, but no earlier than 7 p.m.
Enough aldermen appeared to be concerned about prioritizing capital expenditures to reject an application to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for a grant of $200,000, which would have been supplemented by $500,000 from the City to rehab the Ladd Arboretum bicycle path.
Aldermen approved a recommendation to purchase up to $100,000 of office supplies in the coming year from the Evanston branch of Office Depot. The City will be able to reap savings because nationwide, Office Depot was awarded the contract for office supplies through a competitive bidding process by U.S. Communities joint purchasing program. That program is a nationwide purchasing cooperative designed to be a procurement resource for local and State government agencies, school districts, higher education and nonprofits. The U.S. Communities Office Depot contract allows other agencies – including 1,200 in Illinois – to piggyback off that contract, City officials said.