Recap: Administration and Public Works Committee

Here's a recap of our live coverage of this evening's Evanston City Council Administration and Public Works Committee meeting.

The meeting is scheduled to get underway at 6 p.m.

A packet with information on tonight's agenda items is available online.

Meeting called to order at 6:07 p.m.

Payroll and bills approved.

A 3.1 - Gibbs Morrison projet with Copenhaver Construction change order.

Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, raises questions about minority employment options.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz says the staff is considering further review regarding any future work by this contractor with the city.

Change order approved.

A 3.2 - SWANCC disposal fee agreement. Approved.

A 3.3 - E-Town Tennis agreement.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, says she's heard complaints about the quality of the program -- that it doesn't teach high-enough skill levels.

But nobody else has offered to provide the program.

Contract amended from three years to two years. As amended, it's approved.

A 3.4 - Renewal of line of credit for Howard Ridge and West Evanston TIF districts. Approved.

A 4 - Adopting city sexual harassment policy as required by new state law. Approved

A 5 - Director and aldernate director to SWANCC ... mayor and city manager. Approved.

A 6 - Lease of 2525 Church from MWRD for recreational uses. Approved for introduction and action.

A 7 - Truck and bike route amendments. Approved.

A 8 - Fire protection system testing records amendment. Approved.

Discussion items

APW1 - Utility bill reimbursment policy. 

Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, suggests should be able to reimburse for however far back an overpayment goes. Current policy is to only reimburse or one year.

Public Works Director Dave Stoneback says has concerns regarding size of reimbursement that might be required. Says when problem goes the other way -- somebody has been underpaying -- the city only goes back one year on that as well.

Braithwaite suggests putting a $5,000 limit on it.

Stoneback says total reimbursements have been around $4,000 to $5,000 total for a year.

Says its the property owner's responsibility to review the bills they get.

Committee asks staff to come up with a revised policy.

APW2 - Rental program to address affordable housing needs.

Rainey says "this is really the guts of affordable housing."

Says the only way to solve the affordable housing problem is with cash.

Says program would help private landlords, the tenants who can't afford the housing, and "makes for a more perfect world."

Says program she wants wouldn't be the bureaucratic nightmare that the program operated by the Housing Authority of Cook County is.

Says those vouchers leave would-be tenants thousands of dollars short of the money needed to move into an apartment.

Says Reclaim Evanston, an advocacy group, doesn't have a clue -- that families with kids don't want to live in high-rise developments. Kids belong in neighborhoods, not in high-rise buildings, Rainey says.

Says the source of funds will come from the developers building tall buildings -- but the funds will be used elsewhere.

Says will need ongoing development in the city to fund the program.

Braithwaite says supports the plan conceptually. Asks Sarah Flax of city staff about what the city has done along this line.

Flax says so far have only done emergency assistance-type programs.

Says there appears to be strong support for voucher programs. Need to find a source of ongoing support for it.

Simmons asks to look for ways to help landlords improve their properties.

Rainey says that's a different conversation.

Committee members agree they like the concept and want to move forward with it.

APW3 - First-time homebuyer programs, etc.

Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, asks what more can do to support landlords who need to upgrade their affordable units.

Says housing stock is very dated and expensive to maintain.

Flax says the city has a program that provides deferred loans. Says the buildings typically don't provide sufficient cash flow to provide repayment until the property is sold.

Rue Simmon says she'd like to see a grant option for landlords who are providing housing for low inome tenants living in bad conditions -- perhaps with income qualification for both landlords and tenants.

Rainey says could take percentage of inclusionary housing funds and use that for affordable housing rehab.

Braithwaite supports the concept, suggests limiting it to CDBG areas, but Rainey and Rue Simmons object to that. Braithwaite says if the program works could expand it to other areas.

Staff promises to come back with a proposal on it.

On home ownership .... questions raised about what type of help ... downpayment assistance?

Questions raised about what income levels would be feasible. Flax says that a previous program was limited to people at or below 80 percent of area median income -- but those folks couldn't qualify for a mortgage.

Says may need zoning code revisions to permit greater density of single family homes.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz says want to have programs that can operate on a continuing basis -- not have the money run out.

Says can come back in two weeks and then discuss at a special meeting on Jan. 29.

Rainey says have to remember that can't have affordable housing unless have new development to fund it -- and a lot of people want the former, but not the latter.

Meeting adjourned at 7:36 p.m.

Planning and Development meeting to start at 7:50 p.m.

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