Evanston’s proposed 2019 city budget, released late today, calls for the first sizable layoffs in many years from the city’s fire and police departments.

Under the plan from City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, Fire Station 4 at 1817 Washington St. would close. That would eliminate eight vacant firefighter/paramedic positions and result in one layoff.

Fire Station 4 (Google Maps)

Station 4 hasn’t been renovated since it was built in 1988, and Bobkiewicz says Fire Chief Brian Scott believes the department can still maintain adequate service levels after it closes. The Fire Department cuts are expected to save the city about $1.3 million a year.

In the Police Department eight vacant positions including a commander and five police officers would be eliminated while one new position would be created. The police cuts are expected to save about $860,000. But additions to the police budget ranging from the cost of body camera storage to acquiring a new police dog are expected eat up about three-fourths of that savings.

From a percentage standpoint the cuts would hit hardest in the Health Department, which would lose nearly a third of its staff and in the city manager’s office, which would have a net reduction of nearly 12 percent.

The Gibbs-Morrison Center at Church and Dodge.

Bobkiewicz is also proposing that the city stop operating the Gibbs-Morrison Cultural Center at Church Street and Dodge Avenue, also he said he hopes some other organization can be found to step in an operate that facility, the smallest of the city’s community centers.

Bobkiewicz says the city staff reductions are needed as part of a plan to eliminate a projected $7.4 million revenue shortfall for next year.

The changes, if adopted by the City Council, would reduce the city’s staffing to its lowest level in more than a decade.

Bobkiewicz has scheduled a series of Informal discussions about the budget around the city this month. The sessions will be held:

  • Tuesday, Oct. 9, at 8 a.m. at Café Coralie, 633 Howard St. in the 8th Ward.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 9, at 6 p.m. at the Gibbs-Morrison Cultural Center, 1823 Church St. in the 5th Ward.
  • Monday, Oct. 15, at 10 a.m. at  Backlot Coffee, 2006 Central St. in the 7th Ward.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 16, at 2 p.m. at Curt’s Café North, 2922 Central St. in the 6th Ward.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 16, at 6 p.m. at Temperance Beer Company, 2000 Dempster St. in the 2nd Ward.
  • Monday, Oct. 22, at 10 a.m. at Berry Pike Café, 1100 Davis St. in the 4th Ward.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 23, at 8 a.m. at  Bagel Art Café, 615 Dempster St. in the 3rd Ward.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 23, at 4 p.m. at Starbucks, 1734 Sherman Ave. in the 1st Ward.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 24, at 3:30 p.m. at Little Beans Café, 430 Asbury Ave. in the 9th Ward.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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