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More for trees, less for 311

As a nearly three-hour budget workshop ended Monday night, Evanston City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said he’d have revised budget proposals ready for aldermen by Wednesday.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz

As a nearly three-hour budget workshop ended Monday night, Evanston City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said he’d have revised budget proposals ready for aldermen by Wednesday.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz

Based on comments from aldermen during the budget workshops, Bobkiewicz indicated his new plan would eliminate cuts to the injection program to protect trees against Dutch Elm disease and would scale back plans for the proposed 311 call center.

While some aldermen fully embraced the call center concept at Monday’s meeting, others expressed reservations about the cost of the program — suggesting that at minimum the city should start with a scaled down version of it.

The current plan would see the non-emergency call center operate from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week. It would have an ongoing cost of nearly $700,000 a year.

Bobkiewicz said he believes the center will make the city more efficient in delivering services to residents — by providing a single point of contact for all services and a mechanism to directly funnel requests to workers who carry out the tasks.

Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, was among the aldermen suggesting the city can’t afford to spend as much as the city manager planned on the 311 center.

Now, Bobkiewicz said, requests often go through several layers of managers before getting to the people who actually do the job.

He said that the new system will also track all service requests and the responses to them, making it much easier than it is now to measure performance.

He said he expects to be able to develop "service level agreements" establishing response time standards for requests and track performance in meeting those goals.

But he agreed that the 311 center could start with fewer operating hours each week.

Supporters of full funding for the elm tree injection program appeared to have convinced aldermen that the program extends the life of the trees so much that it ultimately saves the city money by reducing the number of trees that have to be cut down each year.

Bobkiewicz said he also may have new plans Wednesday that could eliminate job cuts in some other areas of city operations. 

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