Evanston aldermen Monday approved a new contract with Sprint — part of a re-examination of Evanston’s cell phone costs that the city manager says will cut the city’s total bill by 27 percent.

But Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said the cuts don’t go far enough.

Assistant City Manager Marty Lyons said that as of a couple years ago the city was paying more than a quarter million dollars for cell phone service, and under the latest program, which reduces the number of employees who get city-paid phones and offers stipends to others based on their expected phone usage for work, the cost will fall to $152,000.

But Rainey said, “Everybody else pays for cell phones out of their own pocket. A lot of other places don’t have to cut down on cell phone expenses because they’re not paying for it at all.”

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said Evanston “is within the top three percent of communities in the country for saving money on cell phones.” And he suggested that employees might say they’re not going to use their cell phones for work at all unless the city provides the phone or reimburses the cost.

Bobkiewicz said he’s taken away 47 phones from employees and given them less expensive phone stipends instead.

Under the plan aldermen approved the city will be paying for 328 cell phones and providing an 49 phone stipends to city employees.

The city currently has slightly under 800 full-time-equivalent employees.

Related document

Sprint wireless agreement and staff memo

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Why Not 2-WAY radios instead of Cell Phones

    Rainey’s quote seems to indicate that she wants employees to foot the bill for work-related cell phone usage.

    That thinking is  wrong, but I would say after looking at all of the cell phone allocations in the packet, that you could probably switch to 2 way radios for many folks.

    The Parks and Rec department as well as Utilities have an excessive number of cell phone allocations.  I know that the city already uses radios in those departments.  There may be some issues with reception–but that can be dealt with by having one-time modificaitons made with proper antennas. 

  2. Eliminate cell phone priviledges for city employees

    I agree with Rainey.

    City employees should pay for cell phones and service. There’s no need for parks and rec employees or any city employee to use cell phones on the job.

    Afterall, out of the 329 city employees who are given cell phones how many use them just for work and how would that be enforced?

    Eliminate city employee cell phone priviledges. It would save the city money and save police the headache when they pull someone over for using their cell phone while driving (now illegal in Evanston) and finding out that it’s a city employee, who are permitted under Evanston law to use cell phones in their car.

    Just sayin.

  3. Cell Phone Usage – City Employees

    The money expended for cell phones used by city employees during working hours is a drop in the bucket compared to the costs the city would/will be confronted with if one of those employees hits a child while driving or causes a fatal accident because they were on the phone.  What skill set do city employees possess that allows them to be exempt from a law that prohibits the use of a cell phone while operating a vehicle? 

    Perhaps the city should/could use the proposed savings to purchase headsets for their employees who need cell phones to carry-out their duties.

    Since cell phones have become a way of life, has anyone looked at whether these employees have their own cell phones?  Why would they when they already have a cell phone and they don’t have to pay the bill?

    The use of cell phones and the city’s policies, procedures and practices need to be revisited and revised!

    Finally, the law regarding the use of cell phones does not seem to be enforced.  Daily, I see many folks using their phones while driving.  What’s the point of having a law if it is not enforced?  Bottomline, requiring the use of a headset while driving does not make the streets any safer.  If the alderman who asked for and the council who approved this band were really concerned about safety, they would band the use of cell phones while driving.  Do you think I could be reimbursed by the city from the savings for the headset I purchased?


  4. Parks and Rec Employees and cell phones

    Last summer, due to the stringent new cell phone policies, there was a delay in providing city cell phones to some parks and rec day camps.  At one of those camps there was a situation needing a  911 call, and because the staffers had to use personal phones to call 911 there was a delay in getting  to emergency services.  If a 911 call is coming from a 773 or 312 phone, or a cell phone that a counselor got when away at college, it is routed differently and it takes time to patch into the appropriate response group. 

    I would not want my child cared for in a program that did not have a director with a work issued cell phone whose number was programmed into MY cell phone.  It would be quite an expectation to insist that staff to give out their personal cell numbers to the public. City cell numbers are all available to the public.

    In every work situation I have been in both public and private, profit and non-profit, if my job description required me to be accessible by phone for business purposes, I have been provided a phone or reimbursement for phone use.  In an age of communication, it is penny wise and pound foolish not to provide workers with the tools they need to communicate quickly. We citizens benefit from those efficient communication systems by having our needs rapidly and efficiently met.


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