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City Council opened its Jan. 12 meeting with the recognition of the Evanston Police Department in several ways. First, Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl publicly thanked the officers for their dedication to Evanston, an announcement made in light of difficulties faced by other departments across the country, most notably in New York City and Ferguson, Missouri.

Second, the City announced several police promotions and congratulated Sergeant Jodie Hart, Commander Angelo Williams and Deputy Chief Jason Parrott.

A presentation by Sergeant Tracy Williams followed. Sgt. Williams and another officer traveled to New York for the wake and funeral for two officers “brutally murdered” while in their squad car “doing their jobs,” said Sgt. Williams. While there, he presented a card and collection taken up by the EPD to the family of one of the slain officers. “The mother stood, took the card, hugged and kissed me on the cheek,” expressing “gratitude that we were there,” he said. “It is hard to put into words the feeling and emotions” of being there, in New York. More than 20,000 officers from around the world filled the streets.

“It was strange feeling that not everyone there in New York was in support” of the police, he said.

Sgt. Williams thanked Chief Richard Eddington for allowing him to attend the ceremonies (air transit was provided by Jet Blue free of charge).

MWEBE Snafu 

And then it was on to the business at hand. In the Administration and Public Works Committee, a contract for sewer rehabilitation in 23 different spots in the City raised eyebrows and caused concern because of the difference between the low bid and the bid that came closest to compliance with the City’s Minority-owned/Woman-owned/Evanston-Based Enterprise (MWEBE) requirements.

Insituform’s $310,979 bid was almost $44,000 higher than Kenny Construction’s $267,040, but Insituform managed 18% compliance with MWEBE compared to Kenny’s 0%. City rules require 25% of subcontract work go to such businesses.

“My concern is that by not accepting the lowest bid price, we are paying an additional $44,000 in order to pay an additional $5,800 in wages” to Evanston businesses or employees, said Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward.

“I can’t help but wonder if there’s a better way to invest $44,000…”

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said  the 18% compliance went “not to Evanston businesses or workers, but to far-away minority- and women- owned subcontractors. “This is crazy.” She added, “And Insituform is one of my favorite vendors.”

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said, “City staff grappled with the same issue” regarding the bid difference. He said staff was stuck between two City policies: accepting the lowest bid consistently, and applying MWEBE consistently.

The committee held the contract pending a suggested resolution, with the potential for policy updates to come.

Joint Gas Purchase With NU 

Council agreed to a natural gas purchase agreement with Northwestern University, should the price hit the right spot. The agreement would lock in the price at $4.10 per MMBTU, effective Sept. 16, 2016 through Aug. 31, 2021. The current price is around $3, but, Mr. Stoneback said, “The futures market is something that’s really out there.”

Council voted to try to lock in the $4.10 price. Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, who works for Northwestern, abstained.

Ward 8 to Buy Building

The City is selling a building on Howard Street. Ward 8, currently a tenant at 629-631 Howard St., will buy the building from the City pursuant to the lease-to-own agreement entered into in March 2012. The purchase price will be $362,650, and all rent paid to date will be applied to that purchase price. By most analyses, the City will recover all funds it put into the property.

ECTV on the Ropes

Evanston Community Television received a year to prove to the City that it can operate the City’s Community Access cable television channel. The decision, arising from the Human Services Committee meeting on Jan. 5, comes on the heels of decisions by the City and District 65 to terminate contracts with ECTV for the broadcast of School Board and City Council meetings. Absent those contracts, it is unclear where ECTV will obtain the revenue necessary to continue operating.

A new ECTV board and treasurer, however, convinced the Committee that changes are afoot. Should the plan fail, there is a chance that Comcast could take away the community access channel. Mr. Bobkiewicz said the City has already taken control of the government channel, and District 65 taken back its channel.

Money to Help EAC Relocate

Finally, aldermen agreed to give the Evanston Arts Center $30,000, but they changed wording regarding the money in the resolution. EAC requested assistance in the form of a waiver of construction permit fees for work done at their new location on Central Street.

Several aldermen were uncomfortable with a waiver, chief among them Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward.

“I am not going to support it,” she said. “I still feel very strongly that we need a policy” regarding permit fees for not for profits.

Ald. Rainey agreed. “It probably sounds silly in the surface, but it means everything going forward with the next organization that wanted help with permit fees,” she said. Council amended the wording so that the $25,000 in permit fee waivers combined with $5,000 in moving fees already granted would be combined to a total of $30,000 in “relocation assistance.”