Evanston aldermen, sitting as the township board, voted 7-1 Monday to seek help from state officials in clearing a path to put Evanston Township out of business.

City Attorney Grant Farrar advised them that the legal issues surrounding township dissolution in Illinois are so complicated that it may be best to seek special legislation to provide a clear path for them to follow in terminating the township, which dates to the 1850s, before the city was formed

The township and city have the same boundaries, and city aldermen also serve as township trustees.

But the township also has two elected officials of its own, Supervisor Patricia Vance and Assessor Bonnie Wilson.

Farrar has argued that the state constitution permits the trustees to schedule a binding referendum which would ask city residents decide whether the township should be abolished.

But that provision appears to conflict with the state statute governing townships, which only discusses abolishing townships on a county-wide basis with a county-wide vote.

In addition, Farrar says, there are unresolved questions about how the city would go about taking over the functions of the township, most notably the provision of general assistance to people who don’t qualify for other welfare programs.

The plan is to seek clarification of the legal questions from State Attorney General Lisa Madigan and to discuss the possibility of getting new legislation passed with State Sen. Jeff Schoenberg of Evanston.

The only vote against seeking help from Springfield came from Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, who said the vagueness of the proposals left him unclear about what he was voting on.

The board scheduled another special township meeting to discuss the issues during the regular City Council meeting Oct. 24.

Some aldermen have been concerned for years about what they see as excessive administrative costs in the township operation and duplication of expenses.

They tried again Monday to get Vance to agree to make some of the spending cuts recommended in a city staff memo as ways to share service costs with the city, but Vance said that because of existing spending commitments she was not prepared to commit to any changes.

With that the trustees voted to adopt a budget for the township for the remaining six months of its fiscal year without any changes. Aldermen Jane Grover, 7th Ward, and Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, voted against approving the budget, because of the lack of any cuts.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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