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Aldermen to consider deeper project cuts

Evanston aldermen Monday night backed a suggestion from the city manager to try to cut a second $1 million in capital improvement spending this year.

City staff say these two buildings at the lighthouse need $590,000 in renovations to keep them from falling down.

That would reduce spending on projects funding through property taxes to about $5 million. The city staff had already proposed cutting the spending from $7 million to $6 million in documents prepared for Monday night’s meeting.

Several aldermen suggested possible further cuts.

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, suggested postponing work on an $85,000 redesign of the animal shelter, because of uncertainty about plans for other city-owned and privately-owned property nearby.

Also said to be in danger of collapse, the greenhouse attached to the Ecology Center. Replacement price tag: $220,000.

Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, questioned spending $590,000 to renovate the fog and signal houses at Lighthouse Park, suggesting the city instead could rent space at nearby Orrington School for the summer ecology program now held in the lighthouse’s outbuildings.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, suggested the buildings, which are part of the National Landmark lighthouse site, might be "mothballed" instead of being repaired now, in hopes more funds might be available later.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said he also had concerns about plans to spend $220,000 to replace the greenhouse at the Ecology Center and to spend $500,000 to replace the roof and do tuckpointing at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center.

The roof needs replacing at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center.

Noyes "houses a lot of valuable programs, but is this building the one we want to use for the long term?" he asked.

Burrus said the city should look at consolidating its programs in fewer locations, while still trying to make sure that city resources are distributed across the city.

The aldermen will get a new, leaner capital spending plan from the city manager at their Feb. 14 meeting.

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