Evanston’s Economic Development Committee has recommended that the city buy electric leaf blowers for landscapers to replace the gas-powered ones the city is seeking to ban.

Under the proposal, recommended by Ald. Peter Braithwaite (2nd), the city would modify its entrepreneurship grant program to make electric leaf blowers and their batteries an eligible expense for grants to local landscape companies.

A memo from city staff says a commercial-grade electric leaf blower costs about $1,500 and batteries to keep it running through a day would cost a similar amount.

The memo says that if 10 local landscape firms qualified for the program it would cost about $30,000 of the entrepreneurship grant program’s $50,000 budget for the year to assist with the transition.

It appears the program would be limited to one blower and set of batteries per business.

To qualify the businesses would have to have a physical location in Evanston and be registered or licensed with the city. Non-profit organizations would not be eligible.

Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) said “it’s really kind of a no brainer” to move forward with the program. He said it amounted to a “buy back program” for the undesirable gas leaf blowers.

Other committee members generally supported the idea as well, although Ald. Devon Reid (8th) said he’s like to see the offer be “needs based” so that “we don’t help businesses that are doing really well.”

The proposal now goes to the full City Council for its consideration.

A city ordinance adopted last fall calls for phasing out the use of gasoline- and propane-powered leaf blowers by the end of next year.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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