While it may have appeared on the surface to be a slow City Council period, there was plenty going on under the surface. Evanston seems to be slowing down just to gear up for a flurry of summer activity.
Without batting an eye, Council approved about $3.7 million worth of contract work for A. Lamp for water-main and street-resurfacing work. The winter decimated City streets all across the town, so residents can expect prices to go up with demand and an improving economy.
The City’s alarm monitoring is leaving antiquated AT&T copper wiring behind and switching to ADT wireless monitoring. The cost for each monitored alarm – and there are about 125 of them – slips from $125 per month to $5 per month. Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, asked if this change meant that the City could stop charging monitored alarm-users for false alarms. No, she was told by the City. If the fire department or police department mobilizes and responds to a false alarm, the owner is charged and will continue to get charged. Wireless technology may, however, eliminate false alarms caused by faulty wiring.
Alley paving, particularly the alley north of Leonard Place east of Wesley in the Fifth Ward, caused the most controversy at Administration and Public Works. Alderman Colleen Burrus, 9th Ward, argued vehemently that the same procedure the City used for placing speed humps should apply to alley paving.
Speed humps allow for an anonymous response via postcard, while alley paving requires a petition signed face-to-face when the party seeking signatures goes door to door. Once 51% of the affected residents sign, then the alley paving ordinance is triggered. Each household on the alley shares in the cost, with the City paying half and the homeowners the other half. The Leonard Place and Wesley Avenue alley will cost each homeowner about $7,000, payable over 10 years.
Ald. Burrus objected to the peer pressure exerted by the face-to-face petition process. The anonymity of the speed-hump postcard process is better, she argued, and the processes should be consistent.
Not so fast, said Ald. Rainey, Director of Public Works Suzette Robinson and Mr. Bobkiewicz. Alley paving is controlled by State law and Illinois courts, they said. Further, the speed-hump and alley-paving policies set by City Council have been in place for years.
“Your streets department is not consistent, and that is the problem,” said Ald. Burrus to Ms. Robinson.
“Certainly we are happy to implement any policy that City Council” sends to us, said Mr. Bobkiewicz. “Our Public Works department is doing what City Council has directed us to do over time.” Ald. Burrus referred the matter to committee for changes, but the current alley project passed 3-1 over her “no” vote.
The Planning and Development Committee had little to do and the meeting ended in less than six minutes. Approved quickly was the new YoFresh frozen yogurt shop in Southpointe Plaza. Given the rapid approach of summer, the rules were suspended to allow immediate passage. “It’s frozen yogurt weather,” said Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward.
With that in mind, the committee quickly agreed to the Lucky Platter’s request for a sidewalk cafe. Both matters passed on the consent agenda at Council.
Also in the Third Ward, the Sketchbook Brewing Company in the alley off Main Street across from the Purple Line passed easily. Concerns expressed by residents over selling beer, parking and alley usage were overcome by a business model that appeared to interest Council members and owners they respected. The brewery will offer limited samples and sell beer only to go. The owners agreed to video-monitoring to ensure that patrons do not park illegally in the alley.
At Human Services Monday night on June 2, the Committee agreed to study possible further loosening of City ordinances regarding controlled substances. This will take time and community input, though. Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, suggested that the matter be brought back in August.
Finally, the Cradle to Career initiative, which three weeks ago resulted in nearly 90 minutes of City Council discussion and was sent back to the Human Services committee for further discussion, returned June 2. The discussion lasted about five minutes. “It’s a good plan and I think we should go with it,” said Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, summing up the Committee’s viewpoint.
Whether the full Council agrees will soon be known.