Here’s a recap of our live coverage of this afternoon’s Evanston City Council Administration and Public Works Committee meeting.

The meeting is scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m.

A packet with information on the agenda items is available online.

Meeting called to order at 4:44 p.m.

Ald. Devon Reid (8th) chairs.

Public comment

Mike Vasilko compares water shutoffs for nonpayment by the city to what Russia is doing in Ukraine.

Consent calendar

A1 – Payroll and bills.

Approved.

A2 – Amazon credit card activity

Approved.

At this point the rest of the consent agenda is moved for adoption, with the exception of items A3, A4, A7.

Approved.

A3 – Contract with Drexwood Partners for lobbyist services

Ald. Peter Braithwaite (2nd) says he wasn’t able to find information on The Carson Group, the minority contractor included in the proposal.

Dave Stoneback, acting deputy city manager, says the company’s address is 11 E. Hubbard St. Suite 502 in Chicago.

Braithwaite looks at The Carson Group website says it looks like only the dog whose picture shown is a minority, but he’s looking at the site for a company based in Omaha, Nebraska.

Interim City Manager Kelley Gandurski says new role would be looking at state and federal legislative changes and coach the city through obtaining grant funds.

Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) says he sees the new position as being beneficial to the city.

Reid and Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) question whether this role would duplicate the work done by the policy coordinator in the mayor’s office. Gandurski says it would not.

Approved 3-2. Kelly and Reid vote no.

A4 – SAFEbuilt inspection and plan review services contract

Kelly questions whether it wouldn’t be better to have city staff do this work. Says in some cases people claimed things were “replacements” but they were actually new — but SAFEbuilt didn’t catch it because they’re working remotely.

Angel Schnur, property inspection supervisor. Says hiring someone internally would cost “well over $100 a year.”

Says there’s no on-site pre-inspection done, even if it was handled in house.

Approved on voice vote. No “no” votes.

A7 – 2022 Special Events Schedule

Approved.

Item for consideration

A8 – Resolution for IDOT grant for street patching of $250K

Approved.

Item for discussion

D1 – Discussion of resuming water shutoffs for nonpayment

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Darrell King, water production bureau chief, says as of today 366 accounts would qualify accounting for $405K in unpaid bills. Says 80% of accounts that are noticed for shutoff pay up before shutoff actually happens. (Of the 366 accounts, 254 are residential.)

Proposes to schedule shutoffs as follows:

113 accounts owing $1,000 or more would be shutoff in April, starting April 18.

113 accounts owning $600 or more would be shutoff early May.

140 accounts owing less than $600 would be shutoff later in May.

Reid says he wants to end the practice of shutting off water for residential units. Argues that there should be other ways to get the bills paid.

King says 17 accounts are on the affordable rate now, and they would not be on the shutoff list.

Reid says that shows the affordable rate isn’t working yet.

Suggests city instead should place a lien against the property — hoping to collect eventually when the property has been sold. Thinks threatening that might have same impact as threating to shut off water.

Stoneback says doesn’t want to shut off water — but has struggled to have good communication with people who aren’t paying. Have reached out in numerous ways to get people to apply for the low income rate program. Not getting cooperation from CEDA, which administers the emergency water payment program.

Nieuwsma asks how long shutoffs typically last — what it takes to get it turned back on.

King says have shut off on average 374 accounts a year. It’s restored after they pay the past-due balance, or apply for a payment arrangement, which could extend for up to 24 months.

Stoneback says longest water typically is off is three days. King says usually it’s turned back on the same day.

Nieuwsma says it appears there’s adequate support for folks on the low income side — there needs to be some kind of incentive to get the bill paid.

King says city has been doing a lot to try to promote the payment assistance programs — but looking for more ideas.

Reid says it’s “barbaric” to cut off water.

Burns says he’d like to hold off on shutoff until Council can discuss it further.

Stoneback suggests bringing back more information on March 28.

Meeting adjourned at 5:51 p.m.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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