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Manager backs vote to abolish township

Evanston aldermen tonight will get a recommendation from the city manager that they move forward with plans for a voter referendum next year to abolish Evanston Township.

The referendum, if approved by voters, would let the aldermen permanently remove their second hats as township trustees and would abolish the jobs of the townshp's two elected officials, Supervisor Pat Vance and Assessor Bonnie Wilson.

In a memo, City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz also recommends that the aldermen authorize staff to seek amendments to state law that would clarify the voters' right to abolish the township, which has the same boundaries as the city, and specify that the city should take over administration of the general assistance program now run by the township.

In a separate memo, Grant Farrar, who serves as corporation counsel for both the city and the township board, says the confusing state of the law about the process for dissolving a township makes it desirable to seek special legislation on the issue.

He also said that because of the potential conflict of interest between his two roles, he's expressing no opnion about whether abolishing the township "is necessary or appropriate."

And he adds that if a legal challenge was filed against the dissolution effort, the law department would have to recuse itself from representing any party in the case.

Ongoing disputes over what some aldermen see as wasteful spending by the township, and complaints that the township assessor's office merely duplicates services available from the county, have prompted increasing calls in recent years from some aldermen that the township be abolished — calls that have gained added force as the city has struggled with a series of tight budgets.

The earliest potential date for the referendum would be at the March 20 general election next year.

Farrar's memo suggests that the proposed modifications to state law set Jan. 1, 2014, as the date the township would cease to exist — to match the expiration of Assessor Wilson's current term.

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