Neither snow nor bitter cold severe enough to close Evanston public schools could prevent the Evanston City Council from meeting to accomplish its bi-weekly allotment of important business on Jan. 27. Zoning for trade schools, noise ordinance changes and garage and elevator matters were the highlights, aside from the bigger stories reported elsewhere.
The impact of bitter cold weather showed up in several places on the agenda. For example, water trapped in sprinkler system pipes in the Sherman Avenue garage caused pipes to burst, sprinkler heads to pop off, and water in the elevator shafts that knocked out three of four City elevators in the garage. The result: an emergency repair bill totally about $108,000.
City CFO Marty Lyons said that some of the work fell under a maintenance agreement, and the total emergency amount came to about $67,000. Regardless, the work had to be done to get the elevators running again, and Council approved the expenditure retroactively.
The next emergency expenditure was about $54,000 for the rental of snow hauling equipment. Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, asked where snow went after the City plowed the streets, Director of Public Works Suzette Robinson said snow is hauled to Lovelace Park on the north side and James Park in the south, where it sits until it can be taken to the Service Center and placed in the City’s snow melter.
“Just think of how beautiful the grass will be with all that water going into the ground,” said Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward.
“Unless it’s loaded with salt,” said Ald. Rainey.
Next came the least surprising item on the agenda: a change order for the purchase of more road salt from Morton Salt — $70,000 worth for salt purchased in 2013. Snowfall in November and what the staff memo termed “an active December” was the cause. It goes without saying that January has been pretty active as well leading to a likely follow up change order later in the year.
Ald. Rainey asked why the City does not use sand instead of salt. “It does not melt the snow,” said Ms. Robinson. “And [Director of Utilities] Dave Stoneback does not like it when we put sand in his sewers.”
All the cold weather, of course, leads to potholes. The City’s truck mounted hot asphalt patcher, unfortunately, needs almost $23,000 worth of repairs. The unit cost about $50,000 in 2003, but according to the staff memo would cost $75,000 to $80,000 today. It can direct hot asphalt through a chute directly into potholes making for fewer people standing around with shovels, said Superintendent of streets and sanitation James Maiworm.
Leaving the cold weather items, Council also approved the direct solicitation for donations on the City’s water bills and city sticker (now wheel tax) applications. Such donations would fund “designated City of Evanston charitable entities only,” not road salt or equipment repair purchases. Look for the opportunity to donate on a water bill coming soon.
Amendments to the City’s “general offenses” ordinances are coming. The 38 page agenda item underwent immediate amendment when a citizen spoke against proposed changes to the noise ordinance. The changes would have limited noise violations during certain hours of the day. Gregg Pasternack of Michigan Avenue said that a neighbor constantly played loud music throughout the daytime working hours, and both the current and proposed revised code allow the neighbor “to do pretty much whatever he wants to do between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.”
The A&PW committee voted to remove the hours limitation, allowing for a broader application of noise restrictions. The rest of the changes were introduced without change, and will be discussed and voted upon in two weeks.
Liquor licenses returned, though with barely a whimper. All the license application introduced at the last meeting passed without comment. Added to them were the loss of the two Dominick’s licenses. Council voted to suspend the rules so as to eliminate Dominick’s from the agenda as quickly and completely as possible.
Coming in two weeks will be changes to the air conditioning unit setback requirement, introduced without much discussion, and the creation of a business or vocational school (as a special use only) certain zoning districts. Ald. Rainey moved to amend the ordinance so as to eliminate residential areas entirely, even as a special use. The Planning and Development Committee agreed.
Finally, the issue of stealthily landmarked homes returned to Council for discussion only. Council, led by Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, stuck by its earlier decision that recording landmark status with the Cook County Recorder of Deeds was the ultimate goal. Recording costs money, however, to the tune of $40 for the first two pages each. Council is reluctant to spend that kind of money for approximately 1,900 properties. The issue remains unresolved.