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Recap: Administration and Public Works Committee

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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 begin at 6 p.m.

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

Meeting called to order at 6:08 p.m.

Minutes approved

Payroll and bills approved

A 3.1 – Roof evaluation services contract. Approved.

A 3.2 – Pavement marking program contract. Approved.

A 3.3 – Engineering services agreement for water treatment plant reliability improvements. Approved.

A 3.4 – Amendment to engineering services agreement at water treatment plant for reliability improvements. Approved.

A 3.5 – Hot mix asphalt contract. Approved.

A 3.6 – Trees and planting services contract. Approved.

A 3.7 – Material testing and inspection services contract. Approved.

A 3.9 – Summer bus transportation program contract with Alltown Bus Services. $50.8K. Approved.

A 3.10 – Open Kitchens summer food service program contract renewal. Approved.

A 3.11 – Sidewalk cafe for Homestead Meats. Approved.

A 3.12 – Demolition contract wit MBR Wrecking for 1816 Lemar. Approved.

A 3.13 – Purchase of truck with aerial bucket device for public works. Approved.

A 3.14 – Contract with Vision Internet for city website redesign and hosting. Related story.

Erika Storlie, deputy city manager, says city needs new content management system for the website … needs site to be mobile-friendly … and believes external hosting will improve protection against cyber attacks.

Some aldermen raise questions about whether the mobile version of the site will actually be easy to use.

Approved.

A 4 – Lease agreement with Strawdog Theatre for rehearsal and office space at 633 Howard. Related story.

18-month lease. $1,200/mo rent.

Approved.

A 5 – Concession contract for Robert Crown Center with Olga Bernick. Approved.

(Taken out of order … Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, was delayed in traffic … still hasn't arrived.)  

A 3.8 – Penny Park renovation, design/build contract with Elanar Construction for $478K. Approved.

Discussion items

APW 2 – City regulation of taxis. Related document.

Public comment

Marie Figaro — asks city to reduce the fees for taxi operators …. suggests eliminating training requirement before issuing licenses. Says late renewal fee is excessive. 

Suggests not requiring being part of a dispatch service to license a taxi. Says dispatch charges add around $500 to the monthly cost of driving a taxi.

City Attorney Grant Farrar says staff has held off on auctioning off un-renewed medallions.

Says the taxi regulatory scheme was developed in 1982 and 1988 … says changes in business model create policy issues for the council.

Says some other cities have chosen to relax cab restrictions. Others are maintaining the status quo, or creating new regulations for ride sharing services

Says state has comprehensive inspection program for cabs, city's inspections may not be needed.

Assistant City Manager Marty Lyons says don't want to have no regulation — but city doesn't necessarily have to be managing as much of the regulatory scheme.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, says city can't do anything about the cost of buying a cab or insuring it. But asks why have to issue a taxi license each year?

Farrar says it's just the way the system was drawn up in 1982

Rainey says cost for license seems excessive. "That's nuts," she says. Also for city chauffeur license. Seems overdone and overburdensome, she says.

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, suggests sending staff back to modify the regulations.

Rainey adds that with the moratorium should hit owners with a late fee when they finally renew their licenses.

Holmes says want to make sure that the taxis are safe.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, says unclear why need separate city chauffeur licensing (when state also licenses them).

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz says staff can come up with a set of revisions in 30 to 45 days.

Try to streamline the costs, look to end duplication with state regulations, he says.

Says can suspend collection of late fees. Hope to have new scheme in place by July 1.

APW1 – Alley paving program funding shortfall. Related story.

Robin Hershey, lives on south side of Payne between McDaniel and Pioneer, on unpaved alley.

Says has been told can't get alley paved until 2020 … and that cost will be early $10K per household. Says hopes to get alley paved sooner.

Laura Biggs of Public Works Agency says city covers 50 percent of the alley paving costs. Process starts with neighbors circulating a petition. Need half the abutters to sign the petition. At that point if the city's Board of Local Improvements votes to go ahead, the project is scheduled for paving.

Says city budgets about $500K a year — and now have what amounts to an eight year backlog. Says until recently was hard to get anybody to sign the petition for alley paving — but now there are a lot of people who want to move ahead.

Wynne asks what would be the savings in maintenance costs if paved more alleys.

Biggs says doesn't have that information. But over time the savings would add up.

Lyons says would have to eliminate staff and the road grading equipment to come up with savings. Says do change services all the time — but if re-task workers, then we aren't actually saving money.

Dave Stoneback, director of public works agency, says have four people on alley grading but do 10 alleys a day.

Says city digs out 10 alleys a year and puts down new stone. That's more expensive but still not a huge cost.

Rainey says there must be another way — not every community paves alleys the way Evanston does, she says.

Biggs says that the drainage system required for solve flooding problems adds a huge amount to the cost of alley paving.

Lyons asks whether there's any interest in tax increases?

Says a one-cent increase in gas tax would raise $150K.

Wynne says paved alleys improve property values — and improve the property tax base across the city.

But says don't want to have to raise taxes to that. Don't want to chase gas stations out of town.

Lyons suggests looking at the issue again as part of next year's budget process.

Meeting adjourned at 7:20 p.m.

Planning and Development Committee meeting to start at 7:30 p.m.

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