Puppies won out over parks tonight in the annual dog fight for city capital improvement funds.

Aldermen voted to pay $470,000 next year — about half the cost of a proposed expansion of the city’s animal shelter.

The Community Animal Rescue Effort volunteer group has promised to raise the other half of the money.

Susan Gapston of 1806 Seward St., director of development for the volunteers, told aldermen the expansion would add two wings to the building — one would house a new dog kennel and the other a new area for cats.

She said the existing shelter was built in the 1980s as a holding facility for animals and is so small that would-be cat owners end up having to get acquainted with their prospective new pets in the bathrooms.

In addition, she said, the volunteers frequently have to turn away tour groups of young people because the space won’t accommodate more than a dozen or so youngsters at a time.

City Manager Julia Carroll said the one-time expense for the animal shelter could come from surplus revenue left over from this year’s general fund budget.

Alderman Cheryl Wollin said she was impressed that the volunteer group promised to cover half of the project’s cost.

The aldermen approved the animal shelter plan 7 – 2. Aldermen Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, and Edmund Moran, 6th Ward, voted against it.

Lois Roewade of 933 Maple Ave., chair of the Evanston Arts Council, pitched the aldermen on the art group’s plan to dramatically increase funding for public art projects.

For over a decade the council has devoted 1 percent of its spending on new public buildings to public art projects. The arts group called for devoting 1 percent of all capital spending to art instead.

For next year that would amount to spending $427,000 under the art council’s plan, compared to about $47,000 under the existing program.

City Manager Julia Carroll said she doesn’t believe the city can afford that level of spending.

The council approved a motion by Ald. Moran to raise next year’s public art funding level to $125,000 instead.

The aldermen rejected a request from the Recreation Board to add nearly $1 million a year to what next year will be a $1.9 million appropriation for park renovation projects.

Recreation Board member Amina DiMarco of 1031 Ridge Court said recreation board members believe the city’s parks should be renovated every 12 years, rather than about every 18 years as is the case now.

Ms. Carroll said that she does not believe the city can afford to take on that big a new ongoing expense, and the aldermen agreed, rejecting any change to the capital improvement budget for parks.

The aldermen did support a request from Ald. Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, to buy two new mobile cameras for the police department to help combat graffiti vandalism and other crime issues. The proposed budget had called for buying just one of the $45,000 devices.

Any of tonight’s votes could be revisited when the full Capital Improvement Program comes up for final approval later this year.

Related story
City capital budget calls for 49 percent spending increase

Related links

Community Animal Rescue Effort
City of Evanston – 2007-08 Capital Improvement Program
City of Evanston – Revised 2006-07 Capital Budget

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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