An initiative that would increase the fines levied against developers who fail to comply with the local hiring requirements contained in the City’s Local Employment Program (LEP) was delayed by City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz because “staff wants to investigate further.” The proposal will return to Council on May 27.

Currently, the City requires a contractor to hire at least one Evanston resident for at least 15% of the total work hours performed while completing City projects. The goal, said Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, who chairs the Minority-, Women- and Evanston-Based Enterprises (MWEBE) Committee, is to keep City-expended funds in Evanston. “Our goal is not revenue,” he said at the April 28 City Council meeting, “but compliance.”

According to the staff memo accompanying the measure, Evanston had only 42.8% compliance in 2013. At least “one contractor … admitted that they had no intention of complying with the LEP, and planned to pay the fine instead,” wrote City CFO Marty Lyons in the memo.

The penalty for noncompliance is $100 per day under the current ordinance. The proposed change would make the fine 3%, of the total contract value. As a result, the fine would increase or decrease based upon the size of the project. In the example mentioned by Mr. Lyons, a Bolder Construction water main project, Bolder paid $9,000 for noncompliance. Under the amended ordinance, the fine would have been 3% of the project cost, or $79,446.

“One hundred dollars a day does not have the same impact,” said Mr. Lyons.

The MWEBE committee considered 1% and 2% before agreeing on 3% said Ald. Braithwaite. The committee has been discussing a change to the fine structure for over a year, he added.

Mr. Bobkiewicz did not indicate the nature of the information staff sought in order to investigate the ordinance further, just that staff was “concerned.” In an unusual move, the City Manager pulled the item from Council’s consent agenda. “I ask that this be delayed until May 27,” he said.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said he “needed the additional information to make an informed decision” as well.

The measure was introduced without debate and will return for a second reading, and perhaps final vote, at the May 27 Council meeting.