Evanston City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz says a proposed federally qualified health center in Evanston won’t add to the city’s budget problems.

The city has partnered with Chicago-based Erie Family Health Care to seek a federal grant to open a branch of Erie’s operation in Evanston and Bobkiewicz and Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl went to Washington last week to lobby for approval of the grant.

A decision on the grant is expected in August, and Bobkiewicz says that if it is approved the new center would be run by Erie and funded by a combination of reimbursements from private insurance programs and federal insurance programs like Medicare and Medicaid plus private fundraising.

“It’s not a grant to the city, it’s a grant to Erie to expand their existing operations to a new location in Evanston,” Bobkiewicz said.

He said the city would have three roles in the project:

  • It would provide temporary quarters for the startup of the program in now vacant space in the basement of the Civic Center that formerly was used by the city’s Health Department.
  • It would apply for certain specialized state and federal grants that only local health departments are eligible to receive. These could include fnding for continuation of the city’s dental clinic and for childhood obesity or sexually transmitted disease treatment programs.
  • It would serve as a vehicle for private fundraising to support the center. 

Bobkiewicz said Erie officials don’t believe the Civic Center site is suitable as a permanent location for the health center, because of limited parking and limited access to public transportation.

So, assuming the three-year startup grant is approved, Erie will apply in the fall for a federal grant for capital funds to build a more permanent facility elsewhere in the city.

But the Civic Center space can be “a temporary or intermediate facility” until Erie has been able to raise the capital needed for a separate site, the manager said.

“So we’re contributing space we already have, that’s already set up as examining rooms and offices. It won’t require any improvements, just some cleanup,” Bobkiewicz added.

Noting that budget shortfalls forced the city to drop most of its health care service programs a few years ago, he called the Erie proposal “a pretty elegant solution that allows us to bring services back to the community but not require local taxpayers to pick up the cost.”

He said Erie already operates several clinics around Chicago with no municipal support, and said they have a reputation of running a very tight business.

He said Erie’s board has told its senior staff that the initiative in Evanston can only work if there’s a business model to support it. If reimbursements and fundraising don’t cover the costs, he added, “chances are the service goes away.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. No free lunch here

    Wally needs to list all the costs not pretend this is free at no cost to taxpayers

    Wally and his staff need to produce a program for the space's operation if they can do that – they need to show what space will be used, and by whom.  Is the city going to self contain the space or mix it with their offices in the basement.  Who picks up the utilities and garbage, the medical waste?

    City staff appear involved in this effort has Wally accounted for their time or are the free like the vacant space.

    The real cost of this is the space on the open market, Wally continues to tell us he plans to insource services, given the city can not produce REAL COST, its a big problem.

    Wally the center is not near the people it serves nor is there adequate parking – sounds like a zoning problem – its not a problem when you control the zoning? A double standard – the city gives a private citizen all types of problems like product a traffic study for the Tilted Kilt – but in their own facility they bring in all the traffic they want – nice double standard.


    1. Erie, Wally and Ponzi agree: Just say no to Civic Center

      "Bobkiewicz said Erie officials don't believe the Civic Center site is suitable as a permanent location for the health center, because of limited parking and limited access to public transportation."

      and then Ponzi says:

      "Wally the center is not near the people it serves nor is there adequate parking – sounds like a zoning problem – its not a problem when you control the zoning? "

      So we all agree that the 'Civic Center' is in a location that is inconvenient for many people, especially the poor and the sick, has limited parking, and poor access to public transportation.  

      Consider also  that the old building is in constant need of repair and not up to current ADA standards, and not energy efficient….and one inevitably enquires:   Why is the City holding on to this giant, inconveniently located mauseoleum?  When will we build our shiny new Civic Center?

    2. Why duplicate ?

      Why does the city always think they need to duplicate services ?

      St. Francis is closer to many of those with needs.  Rent space from them or pay them to offer the services if necessary. 

      Stronger Hospital is a much greater distance from many who need its services than St. Francis or ENH is from people in Evanston who need service.  Why grow government unnecessarity ?

  2. New shiny Civic Center?

    Mr. Who Knows What? have you noticed that there is a shortage of revenue throughout the state and municipalities. How will we fund the a shiny new Civic Center?

    Build it with a casino? Out in the Lake?

    Fund it with revenue from the wind turbine farm in the Lake?

    Fund it with revenue from the plastic bag tax?

    Expired wallets want to know.

  3. Where have we heard that one before?

    Yeah, right. I trust Wally just about as far as I can throw him. Seems to me, and anyone else who attended last year's citizen budget workshop, that Wally said the EXACT SAME THING about the new 3-1-1 call center being a net zero cost to the City. Of course, you had to be there to know for sure since the tape of that meeting mysteriously disappeared… I'm just saying. 

    Yes, let's close Chandler, Noyes, Ecology Center and North Branch and open a Health Center that doesn't make any sense in that space. And, while we're at it, since we're diminishing oh, ALL services, then why don't we cut the City Mg's salary (highest in the City) since his responsibilities have also decreased. Wally doesn't have the Citizen's interests at heart and doesn't represent our community with his continual suggestions that run counter to our community's wants. He needs to GO. Who's with me? 

  4. Wally’s Interest

    Lori, you're right.  It is time for Wally to go.  Wally has been acting in his best interest, not Evanston's for some time.  311 proves the point.  It is good for his resume and unnecessary for Evanston.  The list of his blunders and mistakes are many.   The Council should recognize that he is failing badly and begin the transition to a new city manager.  

  5. I’ve got a hunch

    Those neighbors worried about the use of Roycemore might have another worry.

    The City Council granted Wally B. permission to study another possible use of the Chandler-Newberger Center on Lincoln. Apparently, Wally B. in budget cut discussions said he wants to look into the possibility of closing  Chandler and use the building for something else.  What that is, he didn't say.

    But Wally B. did note in the meeting to Council members that Chandler is close to mass transportation. This was around the same time Wally B, announced that Evanston might partner with a private non-profit firm to bring a federally qualified health center for low income patients.

    What better place is there to locate the health center than Chandler – plenty of parking and close to the train.

    I could be wrong but it makes one go, hmmmmm? What's Wally up to?

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