From left, Evanston Animal Shelter Association members Jill Cabot and Vicky Pasenko join City Bureau Chief and City Engineer Lara Biggs at the Feb. 10 City Council meeting to discuss details of an animal shelter grant.

Evanston City Council members have given staff the green light to submit a application with Cook County for a grant that could lead to a new City animal shelter.

At the Feb. 24 City Council meeting, aldermen approved staff’s request to submit an application for a Cook County Animal Shelter Grant for construction of an improvement project for the current Evanston Animal Shelter building, 2222 Oakton St.

At the Council ‘s Administration & Public Works Committee meeting held earlier, Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, asked the City’s Bureau Chief-Capital Planning and City Engineer Lara Biggs to rate the City’s chances of landing the grant, using a one-to-100% scale.

“I think we are submitting a very competitive application,” answered Ms. Biggs carefully.

Expanding on that point, Ms. Biggs told aldermen that City officials have attended information meetings the County has held about the grant.

“Some of the things that they are really looking for are shelters that are no-kill shelters,” [that] have a high rate of placing animals in homes, and that have a method of dealing with a wide variety of situations, including dealing with the wildlife and stray animals which frequently turn up, she said.

On those points, Ms. Biggs said, “The Evanston Animal Shelter Association [EASA] has really been able to represent that they have the operations in a very good place,” she said.

“And, similarly, the City of Evanston, in executing such projects, also has a pretty solid history of being able to do that successfully,” she said.

Cook County officials announced last November  plans to fund an Animal Shelter Grant Program at $8 million, to likely be dispersed to two or more animal shelters, Ms. Biggs said in her memo.

The County itself “does not operate an animal shelter, but instead contracts with individual animal shelters to take the impounded animals,” Ms. Biggs wrote. “Recently, Cook County reached out to find new shelters to contract with, but determined that the needed shelter capacity does not exist. Therefore, Cook County has budgeted $8 million to be distributed through the Cook County Animal Shelter Grant program,” she said.

Staff is recommending the City apply for $4.5 million of the money and self-fund the remaining project cost through the City’s Capital Improvement Fund, Ms. Biggs said.

“Although EASA does not currently fundraise for capital improvements, they have indicated their willingness to amend the current agreement and contribute up to $500,000 over 10 years,” she said.

The group is excited, said Vicky Pasenko, the shelter’s Director.

Group volunteers have worked for years under cramped conditions at the current shelter, which wasn’t built for that purchase.

The group partnered with the City, producing the detailed application. with narrative and statistics, in support of the grant.

“That was the easy part” said Ms. Pasenko. “Now is the hard part – we just wait and be patient.”

County officials are expected to announce notification of the grant award by June 20, Ms. Biggs said.

Bob Seidenberg is an award-winning reporter covering issues in Evanston for more than 30 years. He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism.