Despite controversy over the choice of a contractor for the work, the City Council this week approved plans for a new tot lot on Dewey Avenue in Evanston.

A private group, the Grandmother Park Initiative, raised more than $200,000  for the park and the city will chip in $67,000 for the project.

Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, objected to the decision to hire Nature’s Perspective landscaping for the project — because its quote for the work was $32,000 higher than one received from another local firm, Evanston Community Builders.

Burrus previously had opposed any city funding for the project, saying the city can’t afford to acquire new assets for which it will have to provide maintenance and long-term upkeep.

Assistant City Manager Marty Lyons said, in a memo to aldermen that city staff and representatives of the private group raising funds for the park “have met on numerous occasions with Nature’s Perspective” over the last three years and that the firm has “acted as an informal resource in the development of the project.”

As a result, Lyons said, the Grandmother Park group preferred to see the contract awarded to Nature’s Perspective and city staff decided to go with the contractor they preferred.

Aldermen Jane Grover, 7th Ward, and Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said they were comfortable with the decision, given the company’s work on the project so far.

Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, said the project represents a new form of public-private cooperation with the neighborhood and that another group of residents is now working to do something similar to upgrade Penny Park at Lake Street and Ashland Avenue.

Aldermen voted to approve the agreement 8-1.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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