With the start of the school year comes the start of the unofficial Evanston year. Thoughts turn to budget, policy, and building projects as Council chambers fill with concerned and vocal residents. After a summer lull and August break, Council returned on Sept. 11 to a full agenda.
The meeting began with a celebration, as Council honored Evanston’s own Lewis Koppel, winner of the state of Illinois senior spelling bee. The winning word, he told Council: “pulchritude,” including its extraneous H.
In the “for those of you who are curious” department, Council voted to pick up a fourth year option on its contract with Dunbar Armored. Dunbar will charge about $86,411 in the coming year to pick up counted and bagged deposits from the City, collect coins from parking meters (about $40,000 of the contract), and “parking meter coin verification.” The City hopes these costs decrease, as more and more parkers use credit cards or cell phone aps to pay parking meters in the coming months and years. A fifth year option remains but has not been exercised, at $86,000. There was no Council discussion of the matter, which passed on the consent agenda.
The water-storage rebuild project continues to grow. Change order number two adds another $7,110and a few weeks to the project “for safety modifications to shorewell ladders.” This change order adds “texturized rungs” to the new ladders, and the ladders were added to the project via change order number one. Again, there was no Council discussion.
Speaking of water, Council approved the purchase of liquid aluminum sulfate used in water treatment. The City keeps about 240 tons of the chemical on hand in three 80 ton storage tanks. Because 2016 prices were higher than 2017, the City put off refilling two of the empty storage tanks until now. “We save $11,550 by doing it this way?” asked Alderman Tom Suffredin, 6th Ward.
Yes, responded water production manager Darrell King. “Bid prices in 2016 were a lot higher than we were going to see in 2017,” he said. He indicated the City may stock up while prices are low, as a bump-up is expected in 2018.
A location has been selected for the 2017-8 Geometry in Construction house constructed by ETHS students in the high school parking lot. The program, now in its fifth year, teaches high schoolers hands the ins and outs of home building. The result: an affordable house, moved from the high school parking lot to a location in Evanston and turned over to a family in need of affordable housing.
This year, the house, once completed in the spring, will move to 2005 Grey Ave. Council authorized an agreement with Community Partners for Affordable Housing to oversee the construction project, and authorized the sale of 2005 Grey Ave. to the high school
Drivers in Evanston need to pay close attention to parking tickets or risk the Denver Boot, and now the newest vehicle immobilization technology, the Barnacle. Under prior rules, a car could be booted if the owner had five outstanding parking tickets. Monday night, though, Council voted to lower the number of tickets it takes to become “boot eligible” from five to three.
Be warned, said Second Ward Alderman Peter Braithwaite. If a driver has multiple vehicles under one name – common for parents with driving age children – the ticket limit applies to the registered owner, not the vehicle. Once the threshold three tickets has been reached, all vehicles under the registered owner’s name can be booted.
Ald. Braithwaite attempted to lessen the blow by lowering the limit to four in 2018, then three the following year. His amendment failed 5-4. Watch those tickets, Evanstonians.
A planned development at 318-320 Dempster continues, as the owner will continue to pursue adding a housing unit in the former livery stable behind the main structure. The new unit, if built, will add a third unit to the two flat on the street. Because three-unit buildings are not a permitted use or a possible special use in R-1 or R-2 zoning, the property owner was forced to seek a planned development categorization. The project began in 2008, and Council has now extended the permit five times. This time, the extension request is “based upon the need to prepare new engineering and structural plans following an assessment of the existing conditions by a contractor,” according to the staff memo. The 10-year project, but the extension passed without debate.
Finally, what is usually a pro forma approval took a twist when Fifth Ward Alderman Robin Rue Simmons objected to Mayor Steve Hagerty’s recommended appointments to committees. “I am generally concerned about the make-up of our committees,” she said, stating she was objecting to all but four of the Citizen Police Complaint Assessment Committee nominees and both Preservation Committee nominees.
She called on the Preservation Committee to be “more thoughtful and intentional in how we’re preserving our properties,” considering not just “architectural integrity” but also cultural significance. Few properties in the Second and Fifth wards have been considered, she said.
On the CPCAC, the told the RoundTable she had concerns about Vincent Thomas, who was recently appointed to the City’s Board of Ethics, having a possible conflict. Mr. Thomas, according to his website, is also seeking the Republican nomination to unseat Representative Jan Schakowsky in Congress and help preserve the Republican majority there.
Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, joined Ald. Rue Simmons in voting no, but the nominations passed 7-2.