Unhappy Sherman Plaza condo owners persuaded aldermen Monday to spend $140,000 to replace a new access control system for their section of the development’s garage.

Hank Goldman, president of the condo association, says the license plate reader technology used in the new system isn’t working properly, forcing some owners to get out of their cars to use a backup keycard control device.


The city signed a $1.3 million contract with Chicago-based Automated Parking Technologies in mid-2015 to install the new system.

Parking and Fleet Manager Rickey Voss says the system is working well at the city’s two other downtown garages.

Eric Risch, APT’s president, said his crews are still working to finish software updates to the system, but he conceded that even after the updates, some small percentage of drivers may still have to get out of their cars to get out of the garage.

Voss said none of the vendors promised 100 percent effectiveness for the license plate reader system, but City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said it appears the system is not delivering the performance promised in the contract.

Aldermen voted 6-2 for the additional equipment — which will let the condo owners use tollway-style transponders to get in and out of the garage.

Aldermen Peter Braithwaite and Delores Holmes voted against the measure, saying they were concerned about the cost and wanted to wait to see if the upgrades underway would improve the existing system’s performance.

But Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said the city shouldn’t continue to inconvenience the 303 condo owners at Sherman Plaza.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said she was willing to vote for the expense because the money to pay for it would come from the city’s self-supporting parking fund — and because she believed there could be an opportunity to recover some of the money from the vendor, because of the performance issues on the contract.

The city’s agreement with APT also calls for nine years of maintenance on the system at a cost of $348,000 per year. The company has already been assessed a penalty of nearly $14,000 for failing to meet the city’s local employment standards.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Priorities anyone?

    Anyone who has lived in Evanston for any length of time, knows that the city runs on a very tight budget. Stuff gets done, but there is not much left over to do frivilous things. It looks like times have changed, and that money is not a problem anymore. This situation at one of the citys garages where the plate reader is not up to snuff, and according to the city a small percentage of the residents have to get out of their cars and use a key card to get in, is going to cost the tax payer $140.000.00 to fix. The city has agreed to foot that bill even though the contractor is still working on a fix. I guess we cannot afford to inconvenience these special people. Lots of potholes out there.

    1. Sherman Garage plate reader failure = dangerous conditions
      This isn’t frivolous. The current system is potentially going to cause a serious, maybe fatal, injury. People pull into middle of the exit lane expecting the plate reader to work. When it doesn’t work, they have lean out of their cars to try to touch the the proximity card to the plate on the pedestal or press the call button, inconveniently located on the same pedestal. I have seen people have to open their door to be able to reach the distance from the middle of the exit lane to the pedestal. The shorter the person the more difficult to reach the pedestal, and the more likely that a foot slips off the brake pedal forcing the partially open door against the boom enclosure so that the partially open door becomes a lateral guillotine. Evanston needs to come down hard on this vendor now, and get this safety hazard fixed pronto, for all users – not just condo owners. Plate readers seem to work plenty well enough when they are in the cars that go around giving parking tickets in Evanston and that’s a much tougher “angled” read vs. near perfect exit lane visual geometry. If I were the garage operator’s insurer I would decline them coverage – they will have no defense if someone is hurt – this is entirely foreseeable and has been reported in writing to them.

  2. Not just Sherman
    The Church street garage is no better, still have to use pass card. Was told after the change that my plate would be in the system within two months, that
    seems like a year ago already. Must ask the age old question “If it ain’t broke why fix it”?

    1. What’s wrong with the old system?

      I had no problem with the old system for years. It sounds for me now after city spent 1.3m on this new system, they are trying to spend another 140k to get the old way back? What’s the benefit to use the new system then?

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