Here’s a recap of our live coverage of Monday night’s Evanston City Council meeting.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:45 p.m.

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

Meeting called to order at 6:52 p.m.

All nine alders present.

Mayor Daniel Biss reads proclamations for LGBTQ Pride Month in June, National Gun Violence Awareness Day on June 2 and Juneteenth on June 19.

City Manager Luke Stowe announces receipt of national award for budget document.

Mike Houlihan, Drexwood Partners, Springfield lobbyist for the city, says city got $1 million for improvements for Beck Park in 5th Ward, and $600K for what will be The Living Room at St. Francis Hospital in the new state budget.

Notes SB40 regarding electric vehicle charging, SB1476 gives municipalities four years to comply with affordable housing requirements. Says SB506, the park district bill did not pass, because of opposition from AFSCME. (That bill would have reduced required benefits to part-time employees of municipal parks departments to match provisions in the law for separate park districts.) Says Local Government Distributive Fund was increased modestly, about $500K additional to Evanston.

Ald. Devon Reid (8th) says he’s opposed to the park district bill — doesn’t want to see benefits for employees cut.

Houlihan says most of the legislative initiatives were not full advocacy, they were were just monitored by the firm. Says its main role was to bring back money for the city.

Biss thanks Houlihan for the help in getting the capital grants. Says he believes city would not have had success in getting those funds without having lobbyist working on it.

Public Comment

Mayor says 15 people signed up to speak. Comments start at 7:20 p.m. Public comment ends at 7:43 p.m.

Special orders of business

SP1 – Emergency contracts for elevator shaft structural repairs at police/fire headquarters

Related story

Presentation says building has 58K SF, need 92K SF to accommodate current staff.

Chief Schenita Stewart says the building conditions are very inadequate — and department are losing officers to other departments with better facilities.

City Engineer Lara Biggs says that four key buildings have potentially $145 million to $275 million in future maintenance/repair needs. These include:

  • Police Fire HQ $50M to $100M
  • Service Center $35M to $55M
  • Civic Center $50M to $100M
  • Noyes Cultural Arts Center $10M to $20M

That’s on top of $14.5M in expected costs for this year and next year for those four buildings plus the Ecology Center and the Animal Shelter.

She says the city has underinvested in its buildings for 20 to 40 years. And notes that, if work needed amounts to more than 50% of the existing valuation of a building, then under the building code the entire building needs to be brought into compliance with current building code and Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.

Says city has worked with consulting firm AECOM on possible feasibility of relocating police HQ and Civic Center.

Says needs more info now on “community values” in coming up with those solutions.

Biss says “that was grim, but thank you very much.”

Reid says, “It’s grim or sobering but really helpful to understand how far behind we are on some of the critical things.”

Really need to rethink how we are clustering and providing services. Says was in Long Beach for a conference where they have a plaza between a number of city facilities — including police station, civic center, library — on a large civic center footprint.

“We thought Robert Crown was a doozie,” he adds.

Biggs says staff hasn’t figured out yet whether building new or rehabbing would be more cost effective.

“Need to put everything on the table,” Reid says.

Sean Ciolek, facilities and fleet manager, says city does have a budget for facilities maintenance but it’s just a drop in the bucket for what would be needed to take care of the city’s buildings. Has never been a plan put together to determine what would be needed to properly maintain them.

Says the city has about 60 facilities — from small field houses to the major buildings being discussed tonight. “We add properties, but we don’t add support staff,” he says.

Ald. Krissie Harris (2nd) says city is letting its facilities fall apart. “We’re going to need to allocate money” she says for a police department, she says.

Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) says got a two hour tour of the police station, appreciated that.

Biggs says city spends about $5M on capital projects each year. Says can’t predict all the ways that a failure will occur. Now on the hook for $1.5M in repairs for a building that city probably wants to get out of. “You do lose something when it’s an emergency situation,” she says. “You pay a premium every time there’s an emergency.”

Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) says need to not repeat past mistakes. Says staff needs to make the recommendations and Council needs to fund them — doing what it takes to avoid future emergency expenses.

Nieuwsma expresses concern about whether there are other errors in old projects — like the elevator.

Says he wants to keep all options on the table regarding rehab or replacement of the key buildings.

Need to start thinking about where the money is going to come from, perhaps a referral to the Finance and Budget Committee.

Says need a contingency plan plan for police HQ. Says don’t have a backup plan now. Should at least sketch out what would do if needed to relocate on an emergency basis.

Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) asks for town halls.

Ald. Tom Suffredin (6th) says need an executive session to discuss police fire headquarters issues. Says it appears the city needs a new building to provide these services.

Says it’s critical to remember that people in custody at the police department still deserve presumption of innocence and need to be cared for properly.

Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) says tour of police/fire HQ was enlightening and underscored the need to rethink a totally new facility. And that brings right away to considering the Civic Center because may want to co-locate those facilities.

Ald. Juan Geracaris (9th) says dealing with old buildings there are always surprises.

Biss says challenges with personnel retention in the police department — says the building doesn’t send a message that the employees are valued. “We have to act on this,” he says, to provide the public safety services that the city needs.

“Let’s do a serious, comprehensive discussion with all options on the table,” he says. And wants it to be as pragmatic a discussion as possible — fundamentally functional facilities — evaluating all the options — cost is going to be brutal no matter what.

Biggs says city is probably five years from having a new or completely rehabilitated police station — so need to move ahead with the elevator project.

Reid, disagreeing somewhat with the mayor, says should consider whether if build a beautiful building does that add value to the community.

Resolution to repair the elevator is approved unanimously.

Consent agenda

Off consent: A2, A5, A7, P1, P2, HS1, HS2, R1.

With those exceptions, the consent agenda is approved.

HS1 – Honorary street name sign for Janet Alexander Davis

Ceremony on July 22 at 2 p.m.

Approved unanimously.

HS2 – Safe gun storage act

Nieuwsma says he wishes there was more the city could do. Most of the gun control issue is up to the Supreme Court.

Mayor notes that the item is on for introduction tonight, not action, as stated on the agenda. Will require another vote in two weeks to adopt.

Approved 8-0. (Suffredin has left the meeting.)

A2 – BMO Harris Amazon credit card activity

Approved 8-0.

A5 and A7 – Two contracts with Christopher B. Burke Engineering

Approved 8-0.

P1 – Sale of city-owned property at Church and Darrow

Kelly objects, claiming the site has only been cleared by the IEPA for industrial use. Community Development Director Sarah Flax reads from the IEPA report that says it is cleared for residential, commercial and industrial use.

Approved for introduction 7-1. Kelly votes no.

P2 was withdrawn by the developer, so not for discussion tonight.

R1 – Civility pledge

Reid says he’s fully in support of it.

Says he’s really disappointed in some of our media. Says he wasn’t engaging in a tantrum.

Denies he favored topless beaches.

Biss says this was not directed at a particular person or at a particular incident.

Approved 8-0.

Call of the wards

Reid — 8th Ward meeting last Thursday of the month, June 29, at Levy Center, 6 p.m.

Geracaris — 9th Ward Thursday at Robert Crown reading garden, 7 p.m.

Geracaris — 9th Ward Thursday at Robert Crown reading garden, 7 p.m.

Harris — 2nd Ward meeting at South Cafe at ETHS Tuesday.

Nieuwsma — Tuesday, July 11, ward meeting 7p at Crown

Revelle — ward meeting Tuesday, June 27, 7 p.m. at Parasol Room and a zoom link available regarding Ryan rebuild project … include presentations about sound study, parking management and concert operations and a presentation from Matt Rodgers of the Land Use Commission about its standards for the project.

Council votes to go into executive session to discuss collective bargaining, purchase or use of real property and litigation.

Public meeting ends at 9:30 p.m.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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