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Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl interrupted the July 23 Administration and Public Works committee meeting to thank Marjorie and Charles Benton for their donation to the City of the Khoren Der Harootian Eagle sculpture. The sculpture, which once served as the centerpiece to the American delegation table at the 1958 Brussels World Fair, will now permanently reside in the front entry hall of the Civic Center.
Ryan Hall, chair of the City’s Public Art Committee, could not resist saying, “It is safe to say the eagle has landed.”
And then the City got down to the business at hand, starting with a change order that added time and money to the repair of the service center parking lot. Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, questioned the change order, asking why engineering consultants did not find the problems – thin concrete in places – that made the change order necessary. The cost of such a thorough report, she was told, would have outweighed the savings realized by avoiding change orders.
Even after the change order, the project will fall well within the contingency cost budgeted for the project, said Paul D’Agostino, the City’s Director of Parks, Recreation and Facilities Management. Each project builds in a contingency above the budgeted cost. If there are no change orders, the money flows into other projects. If there are change orders, they are generally covered by the budgeted amount.
Suzette Robinson, the City’s director of Public Works, sought guidance from the committee on the City’s municipal solid-waste franchise cost-assistance program. About two years ago, the City required all businesses to join their franchise agreement for solid-waste pickup. Ms. Robinson said most businesses realized savings or broke even compared to what they were paying for garbage pick-up before the City negotiated its deal.
The City’s mandates, however, forced some businesses to pay higher rates, and the City had agreed to assist such businesses by paying the difference for two years. For example, if a business paid $200 a month for garbage collection, but the City’s contractor (Groot) charged $250, the business would continue to pay $200 and the City would pay the extra $50.
That two-year period is expiring, and Ms. Robinson said the affected businesses would like some continued assistance. “I’m here tonight to see if you’re interested in extending the program,” she said. The program cost the City $75,000 in year one – $15,000 in excess of the budgeted $60,000.
Ms. Robinson and City CFO Marty Lyons said that only 7 percent of businesses were paying more. Ald. Rainey asked who the 7 percent are. Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, said Council needed more information before they could provide any guidance at all. No one on the Council appeared inclined to indicate any support for the extension of the program, but they agreed to review additional information provided by City staff, including a list of businesses seeking the subsidy. A staff memo will likely follow.
At the meeting, the City’s deputy clerk announced the calendar for candidates for City and School Board positions. Candidates may begin circulating petitions in September, with the deadline for filing completed petitions on Christmas Eve at 5 p.m. The City’s Christmas present: Residents will know who is running for office in the spring election. The new year will begin with a campaign season that culminates in the general election on April 9, 2013. All aldermen and the mayor are expected to run again.
Two items on the agenda that were expected to stir discussion fizzled. A scheduled discussion of the City’s proposed rental-unit licensing scheme was postponed to another meeting. Council will take up the issue, and its proposed $26 per rental-unit license fee, soon. The matter has been kicking around Council and committees for well over a year and touched off a minor national media storm concerning Evanston’s “Brothel Law.” The proposal promises to be interesting.
Similarly, the Mayor’s Compensation Committee report was accepted by Council but not discussed. The report made three recommendations: a 2 percent annual increase in Council members’ pay over the next four years; a thorough review of the City Clerk’s role and responsibilities; and an earlier start date for the next compensation committee. Council may address these recommendations in the future.