Civic Center

After years of debate, Evanston aldermen Monday voted 7-1 to seek proposals from contractors to replace the Civic Center roof.

The roof repair project has been snarled in controversy with many aldermen arguing the city should build a new civic center rather than fix up the existing building, portions of which are nearly a century old.

But with a growing unfunded public safety pension liability pressing on the city’s funding ability and the slowdown in the real estate market dampening prospects for a big financial gain from selling the current building a majority of aldermen concluded recently that the roof repair project — expected to cost about $2.5 million — can no longer be delayed.

The only holdout last night was Alderman Edmund Moran, 6th Ward, who called the project “a pig in a poke that we’ll be paying a lot of money for.”

But Alderman Elizabeth Tisdahl, 7th Ward, said, “While we want to build a new building, we can’t afford to.”

“For five years people have been working in this building in conditions that would lead us to close it down if it was owned by anybody else but us,” Tisdahl said.

“We need to have a roof that doesn’t leak over the heads of city staff,” she added.

The community group Friends of the Civic Center has argued against a new building and pushed for a phased approach to renovating the existing structure.

Friends President John Kennedy said, “Hopefully, the city will continue to move forward with other needed repairs and renovations to make this grand old building a source of pride within our community.”

Alderman Steve Bernstein, 4th Ward, was absent from Monday’s meeting.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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