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City hires consultant to rate all parks

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What started as a misunderstanding Monday night led to a doubling of the budget for a planned evaluation of Evanston city parks.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, complained that city staff was redlining the south end of town by failing to include any parks in her ward on a list of about half the city's parks that were to be evaluated this year by The Lakota Group, an urban design and landscape architecture consulting firm.

Assistant City Parks Director Bob Dorneker said staff had tried to include the most heavily used parks on the list — but it wasn't until several minutes into the discussion that Alderman Brian Miller, 9th Ward, noticed that actually an 8th Ward park was on the list — James Park — the largest park in the entire city.

Brian Miller.

It turned out there'd been an error in alphabetizing the list, and James Park appeared out of what would be its normal order.

By that time the discussion had established that city staff hoped to eventually evaluate all the parks — but was trying to spread out the budget impact of the project by doing half the parks this year and the other half next year.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said when the Parks and Recreation Board initially proposed the project a year ago, he thought the $40,000 budgeted for it this year would cover the whole project — but bids came in substantially higher than anticipated.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said she'd like to see all the parks done at once, and Bobkiewicz said he believed the extra $40,000 could be worked into this year's budget. So the aldermen voted to get the entire job done this year.

Bobkiewicz added that he anticipates the score card results of the evaluation will suggest the city needs to spend a lot more on its parks, but that much of the funds available for capital spending next year are already committed.

So, even though the report is expected to be available by this October, in time for the City Council's annual budget review process, it's likely to have most of its impact on spending decisions in future years.

The review is scheduled to include city-owned parks and ones controlled by the Ridgeville Park District as well as some school playgrounds.

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