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City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz this morning announced plans to consolidate Evanston’s public works and utilities departments into a new Public Works Agency. He also announced that Public Works Director Suzette Robinson is leaving the city workforce effective immediately.

Robinson joined the city as streets and sanitation superintendent in 2006 and was promoted to public works director in 2010.

Bobkiewicz, in announcing her departure, praised Robinson’s work in expanding the city’s recycling program and overseeing snow removal efforts as well as promoting new streetscape design, walkability and bike-ability efforts.

The consolidation of the two departments follows a review Bobkiewicz announced of the programs last May, which was headed by Assistant City Manager Marty Lyons.

Bobkiewicz says the new agency will have four bureaus and that Lyons will meet with Public Works and Utilities employees over the next week to detail the proposed new structure.

He’s also to present the results of his review of the department operations to the City Council on Aug. 31.

The two department now have six second-level management positions, although one is now vacant after the retirement announced Monday of Lonnie Jeschke, the division manager of fleet servics in public works.

The other division managers in utilities are Lara Biggs, construction and field services superintendent, and Kevin Lookis, water production superintendent. In public works they are Paul D’Agostino, forestry; James Maiwarm, operations, and Sat Nagar, engineering.

Bobiewicz says the reorganization “will not change positions that directly deliver services to the community.” and that no layoffs of employees represented by AFSCME are planned. 

But, he said, “Changes are expected among the manager and supervisor ranks as some existing positions will be eliminated.”

Bobkiewicz says Lyons will become interim public works director and will work with Utilities Director Dave Stoneback on implementing the new Public Works Agency, which he says should be in place by the end of this year. 

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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9 Comments

  1. Just asking.

    This news release is quite vague on why Ms Robinson no longer works for the city. Was she terminated? Did she resign? Did she retire? Some answers please. Just looking at the proposed structure of the newly formed agency, the term Top heavy comes to mind. It just seems strange that after such a major consolidation, that there is only one casuality.

  2. Good Move

    While I wish Ms. Robinson good luck in her future endeavors, I think this is a good move by the City Manager.  Public Works under Robinson made a number of questionable moves over the past few years.  For instance, the movement to yard waste stickers sorely miscalculated the amount of revenue expected and consequently the city has had to dip into general funds to keep the program afloat.

    Also some of the capital improvement projects that had to be deferred until next year were the result of poor calculations on the cost of the projects.

    She was in a little over her head, so it is good to see the city trying to right the ship by this reorganization.

    1. Evanston Schools should consolidate too

      Even though a fairly recent study showed that a full consolidation between D202 & D65 doesn't make economic sense due to wage equilization issues, there are opportunities to reduce costs for taxpayers and provide a more consistent experience for all students. Hopefully the Boards of both D202 & D65 will seriously look at this opportunity, similar to what Lake Forest has already accomplished. Bill Stafford announced his retirement at the end of the 2015/2016 school year. Why can't we "virtually consolidate" the CFO function and financial functions of the 2 districts? Do we really need to replace his $200,000 + compensation package or can taxpayers get some relief? Joshua Reyes, the D65 Math Coordinator recently left the district. Why can't Dale Leibforth, the head of the Math Department at ETHS oversee all math for Evanston Schools (both D202 & D65) – Not only would Evanston taxpayers save money, but there would be ONE PERSON accountable for Math in Evanston. The budget challenges facing D202, D65 and the City of Evanston are daunting. Taxpayers are in a pinch and can't be asked to continue to pay more and more and more money. The time is NOW to think creatively and restructure how educational and city services are provided in our community.

      1. The wage equilization issue

        The wage equilization issue is a myth. The union might push the issue but I would not mind lowering the D202 salaries to D65 levels.

        As far as you other ideas, Your suggestions are a good start.

      2. Reorganization in all government and schools

        How many people report to every level of city and school government ?
        I recall Al Gore [of all people] stating that government should follow the same management structure of private business.
        I.e. government has eight workers for every level while private industry has 15.   E.g. for every lowest level employee, 15 would report to a manager/supervisor, and 15 of those manager/supervisors would report to the next level, and so on so that at the highest level the president would have 15 report to him.
        With the downsizing like this to reasonable levels, more real work gets done and less bureaucratic fluff—and large saving to taxpayers.

  3. Good Decision
    Any and everyone responsible for changing the City streetcape by making so many main/busy streets in Evanston single lane streets, deserve to leave. Entering and leaving Evanston during rush hour is a nightmare. Dodge, Asbury, Chicago Avenues perfect examples. #ugh

    1. Because 4-Lane Super Highways Are What We Really Need

      Dear Commuter,

      For 16 years I live on an Evanston "artery" street.  When I moved here, traffic was VERY manageable.  In recent years, the backups have grown and most of it seems to stem from Chicago.  Residents believe that Evanston offers a better traffic situation and attracts A LOT of cut-through traffic that should be using Chicago city streets.  I can tell you that neither I, nor my neighbors, are a fan of what you appear to be proposing.  Every effort to make traffic stream through our city faster is only going to invite more cut-through traffic.  We can barely get out of our driveways with two lane traffic whizzing by at unchecked speeds and you propose we should make our streets four lanes.  I am going to point out something you may have missed.  The majority of "artery" streets in Evanston are residential in make-up.  We don't need 4 lanes of traffic whizzing by in front of our homes.  I am heartily sorry you are inconvenienced during rush-hour, but perhaps you would consider a little discomfort so that your neighbors, who are already experiencing levels of discomfort, might not have to breathe yet more exhaust from even more vehicles on 4-lane highways. 

      With regard to Chicago Avenue, I agree that it could be four lanes in the commercial sections, but such a consideration brings up yet another issue.  Lack of parking in commercial sections of town.  To fix such an issue, our city officials would surely float the idea of taking on more bond debt to enable the building of parking garages in proximity to commercial locations.  Do we really need more debt?  I am not a supporter of adding on to our debt, but would consider it if there was good justification for doing so.

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