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Fresh Food, Stale Fees
What began as a swift-paced City Council meeting on May 23 ended in an animated yet inconclusive discussion that may forestall the opening of two farmers’ markets next week. The City charges a health-inspection fee of $225 per season to vendors who prepare or alter (by cutting or slicing, e.g.) food for sale at the markets. Michael Miro of the Ridgeville Farmers Market, slated to open June 1, said several of their prospective vendors have told him they would not be able to participate if they had to pay the fee.
A suggestion by City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz that vendors be charged only half the fee this year – in anticipation of a more layered fee structure next year – was rejected by several City Council members. Eventually aldermen agreed that vendors subject to the health-inspection fee must pay it.
At the June 23 meeting, they will discuss a different fee structure, which, if lower and if approved, could necessitate a refund to some current vendors.
When Doug Gaynor, superintendent of Parks/Forestry and Community Service, said the Central Street Market, also slated to open June 1, had been considered as a pilot program charging no fees, Mr. Bobkiewicz “thanked” him for “muddying the waters.” The inspections will remain; only the fees may change. A surprise, welcome or not, could await vendors for the two Wednesday (opening June 1) markets, as well as the West End Market, opening June 4, and a Wednesday market at the McGaw Y.
Economic Development, New and Old
In the area of economic development, aldermen approved a resale shop, White Petal, at 1610 Maple Ave.
They also approved plans for new and rehabbed affordable rental housing at 1915-19 Grey Ave. The rehab is a two-flat building, and the new construction will be a four-unit apartment on the adjacent lot. Both the rehab and the new construction are projects of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP2), a federal program designed to address the ravages brought on by the waves of foreclosures across the country.
Aldermen also approved changes to the green building ordinance, allowing developers of new construction between 10,000 and 20,000 square feet to meet Evanston Sustainable Building Measures rather than the LEED requirements of the U.S. Green Building Council.
City officials have said the amendments to the ordinance are designed to pave the way for greater economic development here. They expect a Gordon food market to come to the strip mall on West Oakton Street, near the animal shelter.
Council members approved a measure allowing the City to apply for about $4 million in Illinois Environmental Protection Agency loans to continue to improve the City’s sewer system. Most projects funded by this loan would be replacement of water mains with the CIPP – cured in place pipe – process. With this process, a liner is fit into an existing water main, and then heated (the smell is said to be pungent) so it will expand, cover and seal the existing main.
Aldermen also approved a one-month extension of the City’s electricity franchise with MidAmerican Energy Company and a one-year contract with Excelon, which begins after the expiration of the MidAmerican extension. Excelon will supply energy – 25 percent from renewable sources – to the City’s 23 buildings. The renewable energy will come from a hydro-electric dam, said Utilities Director Dave Stoneback.
Inoculations of elm trees against Dutch elm disease will continue this year, despite the objections of some alderman. Both Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, and Coleen Burrus, said they objected to the nearly $700,000 expenditure in this time of financial crunch.
“We’re prepared to cut a lot because we’re spending money we just don’t have,” said Ald. “Burrus. “Trees are green,” said Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward. “It’s expensive to be green,” said Ald. Holmes.
Until May 31, elm trees on private property may be insured though the City. More information is available by calling 311.
A private donor has contributed $500,000 to be used in the million-dollar renovation of the Dawes Park lagoon, Church Street at Sheridan Road. The City has allotted $100,000 toward the program from its capital improvement fund. For the balance of the funding, the City will apply for a $400,000 grant from Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development, part of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Asbestos abatement at the Civic Center continues, the waste being hauled away to a specified toxic landfill. Alderman also approved a lease for the League of Women Voters of Evanston there. Amendments to the City code approved earlier this month by the Rules Committee will allow City Council to meet thrice, not twice, each month. Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, suggested that aldermen be called something less gender-specific than “aldermen.”
City Health Department Director Evonda Thomas was selected as the winner of ECTV’s Evanston Idol contest. Watch for her performance at the Custer Street Fair.