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A routine approval for the contract to reconstruct the Civic Center’s parking lot hit a surprising snag when Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, pulled the matter from the consent agenda at the Dec. 1 City Council meeting. Her reason, she said, was that one of the subcontractors, Ozinga Concrete, filed a lawsuit protesting the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that health insurance plans include contraception for women.
Ozinga Ready Mix is a frequent concrete provider on City contracts because it qualifies as an Evanston-owned business for purposes of meeting the City’s goal of having 25% of subcontracts awarded to minority-owned, woman-owned or Evanston-based enterprises (MWEBE). In the case of the Civic Center parking lot job, Ozinga constitutes just 1% of the contract.
“This is a great project,” said Ald. Grover, “and I am glad we found MWEBE” qualified subcontractors for 25% of the project. Ozinga’s stance is troubling, though, she said.
“Thank you for bringing this to our attention,” said Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward. “I will not support this. I will vote against it.”
Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, asked about the time-sensitive nature of the contract. The project is funded primarily by a grant from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District because of the innovative, permeable surface to be used. When Public Works Director Suzette Robinson indicated there was no need for immediate action, the committee voted to hold the matter pending research into Ozinga’s position.
Ozinga filed its lawsuit in May 2013, but their decision took on more weight following the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision in June of this year. Ozinga’s position appears to be religious-based. According to their website, “Through four generations our purpose has been to first and foremost honor and glorify God and serve the crown of His creation, our fellow man. Success is more than making a dollar—we want the world to be better because we were here.”
Their position may cost them some business in Evanston, though the Civic Center parking lot contract remains held in committee for the time being.