Three highly controversial items on the agenda meant a filled council chambers and overflow live streaming in another meeting room at the Civic Center. It did not mean, however, that the waste transfer station, the nuisance and landlord licensing ordinances, and 831 Emerson were the only items on the agenda. Council addressed a number of other matters during the Feb. 22 meeting that stretched well past 11 p.m. 

The Fountain Square renovation project began in earnest with Council voting to execute a contract with Christopher B. Burke Engineering, Ltd. for engineering services. The project now enters phase I, which includes “data collection, study, and concept design” of the new Fountain Square. This time, it is real. After phase I come the “construction drawings, bidding ad construction engineering” – phase II. Phase I will cost about $183,000; phase II almost $380,000. 

A new Fountain Square is coming within the next two or three years. Council passed this first step without debate or discussion. The total project cost should be about $4.7 million, most coming from the Washington National TIF. 

Costs for large projects are always somewhat malleable, however. Witness the standpipe painting project. 

Residents will note the newly painted standpipes – water towers – in north and south Evanston now sporting fresh and brighter baby blue coats of paint. All told, the project was supposed to cost a surprisingly great $3.27 million. Unfortunately, $3.27 million was not enough to complete the project and the contractor must return in the spring to put the finishing touches on the water tower paint jobs. 

The culprit this time, as it so often turns out to be, is the weather. “The high humidity caused  recurring rain in May – July that necessitated a modified approach to sandblasting… Due to weather delays, the contractor’s progress on the North Standpipe was significantly slowed,” according to the staff memo. Northside was supposed to be finished in July, but instead stretched to September. That meant the south side project started late and could not be finished before winter set in.” 

The net result is about $250,000 more in costs. Council voted unanimously to approve the additional costs, including remobilizing the Ohio-based crew, which is “highly specialized,” according to Public Works Director Dave Stoneback. Sandblasting and repainting water towers is not something the average paint crew can accomplish. 

Total project costs now push past $3.5 million. The good news is the City will not have to do this again for about 30 years, said Mr. Stoneback. 

New lighting is coming to Foster Field, just north of the Fleetwood-Jourdain Center, as the 40-year old lighting system will be replaced at a cost of about $270,000. Funding will come mostly from a federal community development grant. 

Alderman Perter Braithwaite, 2nd ward, said that because of coming renovations to Robert Crown, Foster Field should expect higher usage over the next couple of years. He urged new Parks Director Lawrence Hemingway to be ready for the influx. 

The field itself may get some additional love according to Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th ward, chair of the committee that distributes Community Development Block grant funds. “The City of Evanston received $100,000 more than we estimated” in CDBG funds she said, something that has never happened. Some of that money will likely go to Foster Field improvements, she said. 

At Planning and Development Committee, Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st ward, said, “Our downtown is supposed to generate sales tax revenue.” Most everyone would agree with that statement. It gets complicated, however, with uses like artist’s studios. 

A proposed change to the downtown zoning code to allow artist’s studios in storefronts was introduced, but Ald. Fiske proposed an amendment requiring such studios to have a retail sales component. Without such, she indicated she would support the zoning change only if artist’s studios were added as special uses and not as a matter of right. 

The matter will return March 14. Ald. Rainey requested artists themselves to appear before Council to explain their business model and reasons for wanting to be downtown. If sales tax will be generated, the matter will likely pass easily. But as noted, it could be more complicated than that. 

And for something completely different, yet in the same vein, Council voted to introduce a change to the home business zoning ordinance permitting commercial dog sitting. The change came at the request of Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd ward, who assured the public that the number of dogs would be limited to three, including the property owner’s pets. 

Finally, a new children’s clothing reseller is coming to the Chicago-Dempster area. Resell shops are a special use due a change in the zoning code several years ago and cannot open as a matter of right in retail areas. Council voted to suspend the rules to allow the shop to open sooner. “People are very eager to have another children’s resale shop since Hand Me Downs closed” in the same area several months ago.