Summer for the City Council means only one meeting in August. Ordinarily, that results in a jam-packed, single-meeting agenda and a very late night. That was not the case on Aug. 11, as Council largely agrees on most items these days.
One of the agreed-upon items was the purchase of a $1.02 million aerial-ladder fire truck. The new truck replaces a 23-year-old truck in Fire Station 3 on Central Street. The old truck “will not be placed in reserve,” said Fire Chief Greg Klaiber. “We’re going to sell that,” he said, most probably for scrap.
Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said, “I wonder if we heard from any of our property-tax-exempt entities offering to assist” with this purchase. “… [A] ladder truck costs more than $1 million … [and] it will go to every tax exempt property in the City, because the taxpayers are buying it. … The time has come when we need help [from the property-tax-exempt organizations] to make one of these purchases,” she said. City CFO Marty Lyons said staff did not receive any offers this time. Several years ago, Northwestern bought a fire engine, the smaller of the fire suppression apparatus, for the City.
The testing for methane gas at James Park is not completed. A new consultant, said to be more precise, will provide additional testing at a cost of $106,000. “This is just to characterize the gas further and to determine whether this is landfill gas or gas from another source,” said Deputy City Attorney Michelle Masoncup.
The first tests found methane gas but could not identify its source. If the gas is not landfill gas, said Ms. Masoncup, then the City is prepared to take legal action against the actual source. Readers may wish to stay tuned.
Another bike project resulted in another long discussion at the Administration and Public Works Committee. The Chicago Avenue project between Davis Street and Sheridan Road, designed to link the Davis and Church Street bike lanes and create a safe corridor between downtown and the Northwestern campus, failed to get out of Committee.
“I am extremely opposed to this plan,” said Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward. She attacked the plan repeatedly for the loss of downtown street parking spaces and safety concerns at Sheridan Road and Chicago Avenue.
“It appears we are not in sync,” said Mr. Bobkiewicz. Calling this the third or fourth bike project that had met with Council opposition, he added, “If we’re not doing what the constituents” and elected officials want with bike projects, “then let’s pull this back” and have a more global discussion “rather than continue to have these awkward discussions” on individual projects. A “three-steps-back” bike overview meeting will be scheduled for sometime in September. It appears all bike projects are off the table until after that meeting.
Two other projects passed without controversy and were popular enough to pass immediately without the necessity of a second reading. One is a new sports dome at 2454 Oakton St. The all-season facility, which will be behind Gordon Foods and adjacent to James Park, will provide indoor sports fields, allowing kids and adults to practice or play year round.
Uses will include baseball, football, lacrosse, soccer and perhaps tennis, among others, said project sponsor Randall Mayne. Because it is an inflatable dome, the structure is considered temporary and must be shut down two days a year. Otherwise, it is “game on” all year round.
The site is environmentally contaminated, so nothing will happen until the state issues clearance. After that, the artificial surface will go down, the large inflatable enclosure will go up, and the kids will play all winter long.
A four-story, seven-unit multifamily residence will be constructed at 910 Hinman Ave., replacing what “originally [was] a single family home that over the years was divided into apartments,” said Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward. The home was razed several years ago and a vacant lot remains. The project requires major zoning relief for building-lot coverage, impervious-surface coverage, north interior side yard setback, rear yard setback, and a parking variance. There was no opposition and the rules were suspended for immediate passage.
The City’s memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Evanston Public Library passed on the consent agenda. The MOU was held briefly because of concern over the identification of the surface parking lot as the “library” lot. In the revised MOU, the lot is identified by its PIN tax numbers. Perceived problem solved.
Police Commander James Pickett delivered an animal shelter update to the Human Services Committee on Aug. 4. After the decision to cut ties with the Community Animal Rescue Effort (C.A.R.E.) as the operator of the shelter at 2310 Oakton St., the police department took over in April. Commander Pickett said there are now 172 volunteers, plus 15 new volunteers waiting in the wings. The average stay time for animals has been cut to 20 days, after which they are either adopted or moved to other locations. The police department has received “favorable comments about how things are progressing,” he said.