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With Council in what City Manager Wally Bobkeiwicz described as a “rambunctious” mood on Lionel Jean-Baptiste’s final night as alderman, a meeting sprinkled with good news was certainly welcome. Positive news from the Fire Department, a newly renovated tot lot, the elimination of pawnbrokers as an allowable use, and further delay of the Kendall College site development in an effort to protect a majestic oak tree were the highlights.

First, the good news from the Fire Department: Chief Greg Klaiber announced that assessment by the Insurance Services Office Inc. (ISO) resulted in an improvement of Evanston’s Public Protection Rating (PPR) from a 3 to a 2. The PPR scale ranges from 10 (the worst) to 1 (the best). A rating of 2 puts Evanston in the top 1.3 percent of fire suppression communities nationwide.

The change should result in a reduction in fire insurance premiums for Evanston homeowners of between 6 and 10 percent, said Chief Klaiber. “A tremendous amount of work was done over the last year to prepare for this,” he said. Evanston improved in the three major areas the ISO evaluates – water availability and pressure, communications and training. “Training has improved tremendously, and that really helped us out this time,” said Chief Klaiber. Evanston was last evaluated about 18 years ago.

The newly renovated tot lot at Brummell and Richmond, two years in the making according to Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, should finally be finished this spring at a cost of about $300,000. That is the good news.

The bad news, delivered by Mr. Bobkeiwicz in response to a question from Ald. Jean-Baptiste, is that the Brummell tot lot is the only park improvement other than a James Park irrigation upgrade scheduled for the coming year. While the list of park projects that need to be completed is long and continues to grow, “it’s come to a funding issue,” he said.

The City simply does not have the money to upgrade parks right now.

While economic development in the form of businesses coming to or expanding in Evanston will be a key to adding revenue and funding more projects, those businesses will not be pawnbrokers.

Council voted to eliminate pawnbrokers as an allowable use in the C-1 district, the only zoning district that currently allows such businesses. As a result, no new pawnbrokers will be coming.

The one existing pawnbroker in the City, on Howard Street, will continue as a legal nonconforming use, said Economic Development Director Steve Griffin, but it will not be permitted to expand or move.

The Kendall College subdivision proposal was held again. Corporation Counsel Grant Farrar said he continued to negotiate and “exchange engineering schematics” with the developer and counsel for the developer in an effort to route any new alley around a particular oak tree.

Forestry Director Paul D’Agostino said he did not believe the tree to be 350 years old as some had claimed it to be, but, he said, “In my opinion it is in excess of 200 years old and has a long life span remaining. It is worth saving.”

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, moved that the items concerning the site be held at Council.

Negotiations continue.