Evanston aldermen decided Monday that "Planter Square" just didn’t sound right.
They rejected a staff proposal to inexpensively cover up the broken fountains in the city’s landmark plaza with dirt and flowers and authorized spending $224,000 to fix the fountains and the plaza’s brickwork instead.
The plaza has been deteriorating for years, but the final blow came this winter when a water pipe burst in a pit under the square, flooding the pit and damaging electrical equipment there.
"How can we have a space called Fountain Square that has no fountain?" Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, argued. "That’s horrible, the most ridiculous thing."
The vote to spend three times the estimated cost of the planter plan was eased by a determination from city staff that the funds to pay for it could be taken from a balance of $4.1 million in the Downtown II tax increment financing district.
"This community complains about TIFs," Ald. Rainey said, "We have people thinking we’re giving away money to developers from TIFs. We’re not doing that. Look, we’re going to restore this monument to veterans with TIF funds."
Some aldermen questioned the delay in coming up with the repair plans.
"The pipe burst in February," Alderman Anjana Hansen, 9th Ward, said, "And this is the first time we’ve discovered its completely inoperable?"
Facilities Manager Dave Cook said city staffers had been working on the issue for a long time, trying to come up with an inexpensive solution.
Mayor Lorraine Morton brought the fountain debate to the boiling point at a council meeting two weeks ago when she attacked decrepit conditions she saw when she participated in this year’s Memorial Day ceremonies at the plaza.
Alderman Edmund Moran, 6th Ward, cast the only vote against the repair work, saying the plaza needs a complete redesign.
"We should hang onto our money and wait for a moment, hopefully not too far off, to employ that money to create a place that we can have some pride in, rather than just turning the bubble machine back on for nearly a quarter million dollars," Ald. Moran said.
City staff estimated it may take the rest of the summer to make the repairs the council now has authorized.