Here’s a recap of our live coverage of tonight’s Evanston City Council Administration and Public Works Committee meeting.
The committee is scheduled to vote on a plan to shift more of the city’s banking business to First Bank and Trust and act on about a dozen other items.
Meeting called to order at 5:50 p.m., five minutes after the scheduled start time.
Packet of information on tonight’s agenda items can be found here.
Payroll and bills approved.
Washroom renovation contract at the Civic Center approved. Contract for $285K with G.A. Johnson & Son of Evanston. Approved.
Water treatment chemicals purchase from various vendors for total of $532K. Approved.
Purchase of salt brine machine. Staffer says will reduce amount of rock salt used on roads while improving performance. Also uses “beet juice” as part of the brine mix. Says it should also make road surfaces last longer. $88K. Approved.
Vehicle purchase item deferred to next meeting … when additional items will be included.
Contract with First Bank and Trust for banking services. Former mayor Jay Lytle, one of the founders of the bank, makes a brief presentation. Staff report says the proposal from FB&T will be the best financial deal for the city. Other bidders on the deal included Chase Bank and BMO Harris.
Assistant City Manager Marty Lyons says it’s a good move to switch banks after a period of time. City had been with Chase for about the past 10 years.
Change order for water utility control system, extending time for completion of the project. No additional cost. Approved.
Release of closed-session minutes. Approved.
Wireless service improvements at Fleetwood-Jourdain. Approved.
Construction yard for large diameter sewer rehab project. Approved.
Ordinance amendment authorizing city to tow cars from fire lanes on private property. With contract with the property owners, city could tow vehicles without getting a call from the building owner, says parking manager Ricky Voss. Approved.
Downtown Evanston funding request for total of $571K. Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, asks why more of the funding couldn’t come from the Washington National TIF, rather than the Economic Development Fund.
Lyons says could shift the funding source.
Rainey says has no problem with the total amount — just the sourcing of the funds. Says there are neighborhoods all over the city that need the economic development funds that don’t have a TIF as an alternative revenue source.
Split of funding is $370K form the Special Service Area tax district, $113K from the Economic Development Fund and $88K split equally between the Washington National TIF and the Economic Development Fund.
Burrus says she also favors taking more money from the TIF to save the ED funds for other neighborhoods that don’t have TIFs.
Change proposed is approved 4-1. Holmes votes no.
FY 2013 city budget. Rainey raises question about approving library budget when council no longer has control over the library budget.
Lyons says under state law library is still connected to the city as a “component unit” of city government.
City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz says that by end of the year will charge back any remaining general services costs to the library.
Burrus says, now that library board has power to tax citizens, its meetings should be televised to let people know what’s going on with their tax dollars.
Rainey suggests should get presentation on library budget. Bobkiewicz says it was available as well as more detail on city departments.
Rainey asks about funding for ECTV.
Bobkiewicz says it’s been going through a lot of changes. Is now operating from city’s service center. Existing agreement expires next month. Negotiating new agreement. Says terms haven’t been worked out yet.
Says $50K amount in budget doesn’t include any additional services. May come back with request for additional funding. Says were at $400K subsidy back in 2010-11. Biggest piece of cut was the rental cost that’s been eliminated by moving the studio to city facility.
Bobkiewicz says the 10 year old agreement says ECTV will take whatever the city allocates and provide whatever services the city asks for.
Says the city has been getting Monday evening coverage as part of the basic deal. Says has been paying $200 a night for coverage on other evenings.
Says wants to shift the separate franchise fee equipment money from having it all going to ECTV, and instead splitting the funds among the city, the two school districts and ECTV.
Says are planning to spend $40K from existing funds to upgrade TV equipment in the City Council chamber.
Burrus asks how ECTV is doing on fundraising for itself. Bobkiewicz says could have ECTV folk make a report on that, says understands they are still “in the early stages” of their fundraising efforts.
City budget approved.
Water rate increase … 3 percent.
Rainey says the average bill is about $150 a year for water. Says that’s astonishing. Says her two-person family uses a lot more. Notes that the increase won’t go into effect until July. (Water usage was up this past summer because of the drought, so increase originally proposed to start in January can be delayed.)
Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, says she gets a lot of complaints about the size of the water bill… but note that the total bill also includes sewer and garbage removal costs … however she finds it very difficult to add to the water rate.
Dave Stonebeck , utilities director, says the increase is designed to fund capital improvements to the water plant and the water distribution system.
Increase rejected on a 4-1 vote. Only Grover votes for it.
Bobkiewicz notes that water fund is now out of balance.
Rainey suggests moving the issue to council for debate by full body.
Bobkiewicz says water rates are among the lowest in Illinois (though notes that people don’t understand the bill as presented now). Says can make additional changes to the bill.
Says improvement to water infrastructure amount to a bargain to residents.
Says Chicago has raised its water rate 25% each year for the past three years.
Says that have gotten behind on distribution system improvements (note Central Street water main breaks this summer) but also trying to reduce city’s debt level — so have to come up with revenue someplace to make those improvements.
Holmes says sewer rates have been increasing for decades because of sewer improvements — people get the “water bill” in the mail — and that’s what they complain about.
Says its an educational process that will take some time and work to get past it.
Bobkiewicz says its money being invested to make sure that the water is there when you turn on the tap. Want to do it responsibly and without issuing debt that we don’t have a way to pay back.
Rainey says our streets and basements used to be flooded on a regular basis, and that just doesn’t happen any more.
Says if went to public meeting and said water rates were lowest here — people would throw things at you.
Says she didn’t know that people were going to get an annual charge on their water bill for theair paid for yard waste containers. Burrus said she was aware of it.