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A City Council meeting that stretched close to 11 p.m. because of debates about branch libraries and the Township budget debates also addressed City projects, relocating businesses, and a controversial tot lot. The Council began on edge and, with an unsatisfactory conclusion to an animal cruelty case, ended on edge.

Administration and Public Works approved a contract to MMB Enterprises for repairs to the police headquarters exterior masonry. Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said, “This is another case where out of three bids we’re taking the highest bidder” because of the minority, women and Evanston business enterprise program (MWEBE).  The added cost on this contract totaled more than $50,000, as a $500,000 bid was accepted over a bid of $450,000. City Attorney Grant Farrar said that at the July 26 City Council meeting, City staff would suggest revisions to the MWEBE program.

The HVAC work at the City’s 911 center brought MWEBE back into the forefront, this time because the low bidder was granted a waiver by City staff. The City’s MWEBE program applies to subcontracted work for the City, requiring each contractor, unless exempted by waiver, to subcontract out 25 percent of awarded contracts to minority- or woman-owned or Evanston-based firms. Because City staff determined that realistically only 8 or 9 percent of the $93,000 project could be subcontracted to MWEBE eligible subcontractors, and because the bidder, International Piping System, Inc., requested an MWEBE waiver, staff accepted the bid.

Bits and pieces of the Emerson Square Redevelopment plan, a proposed mixed-use development that one aspect of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP2) project, continue to appear variously before Council. At the June 14 meeting, the City agreed to purchase a couple of vacant lots. On June 28, Council agreed to participate in a targeted brownfield assessment (TBA) program administered by the Illinois EPA. The IEPA will assess the contamination on the City-owned Animal Control Site. The City has no obligation other than to accept the report, but when the Emerson Square program goes forward with Brinshore Development, the City can use the report to develop a site remediation plan if necessary.

Two distinctly different zoning changes passed through Council. The relocation of Bagel Art from Chicago Avenue just north of Dempster Street around the corner to Dempster Street and Sherman Place passed easily, using a Council procedure – introducing an ordinance then suspending the rules to approve it the same evening – to allow the measure to take effect immediately. Consideration of the 555 Howard St. convenience store, however, brought out neighbors in opposition and resulted in a suggested rule change referral by Ald. Rainey. The Zoning Board of Appeals had recommended adherence to existing restrictions, but City Council expanded operating hours. Ald. Rainey suggested that any changes to ZBA recommendations require a public hearing to which affected neighbors would be invited.

The Grandmother’s Park tot lot  was able to move forward after Council agreed to provide up to $50,000 toward land acquisition. Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, joined by Alderman Donald Wilson, 4th Ward, opposed the move. Taking property off the tax roles permanently while Robert Crown Center is only a block and a half away does not show fiscal discipline, she said, particularly when the City is laying off firefighters. “We are living beyond our means,” said, and continuing to fund “pet project in people’s wards.” Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, said, “I guess that was aimed at me.” The resolution passed 7-2.

The night ended with call of the wards, and an apparently angered Ald. Rainey telling Council of an animal cruelty case in her ward in which a dog was hog-tied with a cloth shoved in its mouth. When the case came before the judge, however, she was told the arresting officer was on vacation despite her repeated calls to the police department to make sure the officer would be in court. Without the arresting officer, the case was dismissed, the alderman said.