There was not a lot of middle ground at the Feb. 23 City Council meeting. Some items were approved without comment on the consent agenda. There were split decisions for others – including a tiebreaker by the mayor – and one item was removed entirely from consideration. 

At the outset of the meeting, the City recognized Hank Daniels, a supervisor in the Public Works department, whose quick assessment of a colleague’s medical condition is credited with saving the employee’s life.

Open Evanston

Luke Stowe, digital services coordinator for the City, described Open Evanston, the City’s new open data platform for accessing City documents. The City will post information about utilities, public works, permits, licenses, inspections, crime reports and salaries, as well as databases, on its website, “This is part of a larger data philosophy that we need to serve the right data to our constituents at the right time, at the right place and on the right device,” he said.

As examples, there will be an interactive map of public trees and a Public Works dashboard with data about potholes, special pickups and the like. Some of the data will be updated daily or even more frequently, said Mr. Stowe.

Mr. Stowe and City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said the plethora of data on may reduce FOIA requests.

Body Cameras

Council approved a request by Police Chief Richard Eddington to authorize the City Manager to apply for a Homeland Security and Emergency Management grant for body cameras for the Police Department’s Problem-Solving team. The bulk of the cost would be covered by the Bureau of Justice Administration through the Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management – which itself is seeking a grant for body-worn cameras – but the City would have to contribute some matching funds. In order to obtain the grant, the Evanston Police Department would have to partner with an academic institution, and the Police Department is reaching out to academic institutions. According to a Feb. 11 memo from Chief Eddington, “The Evanston Police Department is seeking permission to apply for the grant because staff believes that body-worn cameras will become the industry standard and it would be beneficial to obtain federal funding to start the program for the Evanston Police Department.”

1821 Ridge: Off

The City recently published a notice recently it planned to sell the property it owns at 1821 Ridge Ave. to National School Towel Service, which owns the rest of the parcel there. Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, objected to the proposed sale because she said the company planned to sell the entire parcel to a developer and the City’s selling its property to National School Towel Service would only enrich that company. “They’re going to make more money once the City sells it,” she said. She suggested that the ordinance be changed to allow the City manager to sell the property to the developer, but such a change was impermissible without prior legal notice, said Corporation Counsel Grant Farrar. The item was pulled from the agenda.

Restoration of Bird Habitat

A Feb. 23 memo from the City’s Public Works Department states that during the construction of Northwestern University’s visitor center, “a naturalized area regularly inhabited by migratory birds was removed to accommodate the new building and its supporting infrastructure.” The City plans to restore the bird habitat, located near Clark Street Beach, for about $27,000, using fees collected from the University for removing public trees there. Evanston-based Kettelkamp & Kettelkamp will restore the landscape and habitat.

Standing Water

A contract to paint and repair the City’s two water standpipes will be negotiated with American Suncraft Construction of Medway, Ohio. These standpipes serve as above-ground water storage in the distribution system, help maintain pressure throughout the system, preserve flows during firefighting operations and provide an emergency backup in the event of pumping outages at the main treatment plant. The north standpipe stores 7.5 million gallons of water, and the south standpipe, 5 million gallons. American Suncraft will sandblast and repaint the interior and exterior of each standpipe, and perform simple repair and make safety improvements in both standpipes.

The work is planned so that only one standpipe will be out of commission at a time and both projects will be completed this summer and be operational again by the time the 1934 reservoir at the water utility is out of service for replacement.

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...