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Here comes continued sewer rehabilitation and a new bridge for Bridge Street. Northwestern is paying a new easement fee to the City – $220 per year. And the City is borrowing, and its debt continues to rise. Those are the highlights from City Council July 8 and 15.
Large-diameter sewer projects are expensive. Two stretches – one running much of the span of Central Park in Evanston and another a relatively short portion of Main Street in front of Lincoln School – will cost $1.39 million, to be borrowed from the Illinois EPA. Both projects, slated for 2013-14, passed without discussion other than Ald. Rainey asking about the company that will be doing the work, Kenny Construction. “They have been very responsive,” said Lara Biggs of the Utilities Department. The City has been pleased with their work, she added.
The Bridge Street project, in a change from recent contracts that may signal a shift in the economy, came in higher than the engineer’s estimate. Recently, nearly every bid has come in below the estimate. “Are you surprised it went over?” asked Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward. Bridges are tricky, responded Suzette Robinson, director of Public Works.
The City should “give some thought as to what we name it when it’s done,” said Ald. Grover. “The Bridge Street Bridge?”
The Northwestern easement will cross Emerson between Orrington and Sheridan and provide a chilled water loop to Hobart Hall. Appearing to cringe at the low amount of the easement – $220 per year – Ald. Rainey added, “I just want to make sure they restore the street. Restoration on these jobs is just terrible. Not Northwestern, necessarily – all these utilities.” According to the staff memo, the amount charged is the “standard amount of $0.50/square foot.”
On to borrowing: The City will be issuing $12.7 million in bonds at the end of July to cover capital projects. Of that, $10.4 million will be what is known as unabated, or general obligation debt, to be repaid from the property tax revenues. The rest will be paid from charges on water bills or from special-assessment areas.
As a result, the City adds $10.4 million to its general debt burden. That debt is separate from the pension debt. The City plans to repay $8.2 million during the year. At year’s end, the total debt burden will stand at about $111.5 million after beginning the year owing about $109.3 million. The cost of issuing the bonds is $64,000. All figures come from the staff memo.
City CFO Marty Lyons said the bond debt had nothing to do with the decision by Moody’s to lower the City’s bond rating several weeks ago. “When Moody’s dropped us, it was not bond debt that did it. It was [their] changing police and fire pension rules,” he said. “Moody’s called [Evanston’s] debt level ‘moderate.’”
Ald. Rainey said, “The 0.15% increase in interest rate for the drop in our credit rating … [is] really minimal.” The City has a [somewhat arbitrary] $113 million statutory debt limit.
Finally, all the liquor issues introduced at the last meeting passed on the consent agenda. Those dwelling too long on debt numbers may find they need a drink.