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Midnight meetings have returned of late, a development surprising no one, given the large tower projects on recent agendas. This week, the 601 Davis project helped propel the Jan. 22 City Council meeting perilously close to Jan. 23. Other items, however, definitely contributed, as several projects and policies show signs of trouble – trouble Council wrestled with that night.

Change Orders Cost Time … 

First up was the Gibbs-Morrison building. The total price tag on the building, a conversion of the former Boocoo space to a City-owned property has stretched toward $1 million. A change order – the fourth one for this project – added just $3,640 but four months to the engineering portion of 2017’s patio replacement project. That project – which includes stormwater aspects as well as the patio and now has a price tag of around $400,000 – is said to be the absolute last project needed to bring Gibbs-Morrison fully online. First Slice Pie Café offers salads and pie, among other things, there, and the plan is that programs for teens will begin there soon.

“Can staff tell me – because this date seems very long – does this mean the patio space will be useable during the summer?” asked Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward during the Administration and Public Works Committee meeting.

“It should be done in the spring,” replied Lara Biggs, the City’s Capital Planning Bureau Chief. Most of the work is done, she added, but remaining work needs the ground to not be frozen 

… And Money

For Fountain Square, the price tag for the delay is much larger – nearly $200,000.

“Please explain how we got to this point,” said Alderman Tom Suffredin, 6th Ward.  

“When we awarded the contract, we did reference checks” on the general contractor, said Ms. Biggs. The contractor checked out and all looked good, she said, but since the moment the project began “we have had issues,” she said. The oft-delayed project will now stretch into the late spring, and the engineering aspect – including making sure the fountain is working properly several months after it is initially turned on – will continue through September 2018.

“Because of the size of this contract, we really need to have someone full-time observing” the day-to-day progress of the contractor, added Ms. Biggs. That task falls to Christopher B. Burke Engineering, and the added cost amounts to $197,906.79.

The City will not have to cover the full amount. “We do have a liquidated damages clause in the contract” with Copenhaver, the general contractor, said Ms. Biggs. The City has recovered about $64,000. Also, the contractor expects to complete the work for slightly less than anticipated, making the $200,000 sting a little less.

The payments comes from the soon to expire Washington National TIF. At present, the City expects to have about a $1 million surplus when the TIF expires.

Divided Council on Divvy Bikes

Oak Park made a big splash in recent days when it voted to cancel its Divvy contract, and as a result Evanston and Oak Park stared across a blue line of clunky rental bikes Monday night.

Evanston subsidizes the Divvy program to the tune of over $100,000 a year. The program costs more than $240,000 and brings in about $71,000 in rider fees and another $69,000 or so in sponsorship fees.

Aldermen Robin Rune Simmons, 5th Ward, and Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, both said they were concerned about the cost of the program and the underwhelming user activity numbers. Later, at full council, Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, who missed the A&PW meeting, added to the chorus.

“We really need a year to see how ridership goes up,” said Johanna Leonard, the City’s Interim Transportation and Mobility Coordinator. With a full year pushing an Evanston program subsidizing Divvy membership, the Divvy 4 All program, perhaps ridership numbers will increase, she said. Also, station relocations may work to increase ridership. “If we get the bikes and stations in the right place, more riders may come,” she said.

With Oak Park’s withdrawal, more stations and bikes might be available soon. Right now, though, it is just too soon to tell what the Oak Park fall out will be, said Ms. Leonard.

Also, newer programs permit dockless bike rentals, which are more convenient than a Divvy program requiring a rider to return a bike to fixed docking stations. Ald. Braithwaite asked that the matter be held for a month to permit an investigation into dockless bikes, but he was not able to get the votes.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said the one year extension – chopped down from the five-year renewal that was in the contract – was the best course of action. The City can study the program and alternatives for a year, then re-evaluate.

The one-year extension passed 7-2, with Alds. Braithwaite and Fleming voting no.

Helping Residents Become Firefighters

Agenda items were not all problematic Monday night. Council voted to approve an initiative brought out of the Minority, Women and Evanston Based Enterprises Committee to subsidize the cost of the firefighter Candidate Physical Ability Test for Evanston residents. Costs will come out of fines paid by contractors for failure to comply with the Local Employment Program – a program requiring contractors working on City of Evanston projects to employ Evanston residents. 

The program reflects “the commitment from the Evanston Fire Department to make the fire department better reflect our community,” said Ald. Rue Simmons. One barrier identified was the cost of the CPAT. With the new program, the barrier should go away. Both Ald. Fleming and Eighth Ward Alderman Ann Rainey said they were excited, and voted enthusiastically in favor. The measure passed unanimously in the consent agenda.  

Good Brews

 The owers of The Peckish Pig, 623 Howard St., exercised their option to purchase the building from the City. Like the owners of Ward 8, the owners of Peckish Pig rented their City-owned building with an option to purchase. “We do want to push forward as fast as possible,” said Jamie Evans, one of the owners. Soon, the building will be out of City hands.

Finally, the former Radio Shack space will soon be Colectivo Coffee. Council approved a Type 2 restaurant for the space, and voted to suspend the rules to permit the ordinance to be effective immediately.