City officials got an earful at a 7th Ward meeting Thursday night from residents who oppose closing the Chandler-Newberger Recreation Center.

About three dozen people showed up at the Ecology Center for the session, which also heard complaints about the city’s efforts to be paid for water used by the non-profit that runs the Frank Govern golf course.

Organizers of a campaign to save the recreation center, including Jaime Vehovsky and Marie Lynch, pointed to city data showing that users of the recreation center come from across the community.

Top: Jaime Vehovsky speaks at the 7th Ward meeting as Marie Lynch sits beside her. Above: A young boy catches his mother’s attention during the meeting.

They argued that public gym and recreation space in the city is already far too limited to close the center and said it plays an important role in keeping Evanston an attractive community for families with children.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said the review of the recreation centers is part of an overall examination of all city programs as the city tries to further trim its spending to match sagging revenue projections.

He said the city is fortunate to have a wide variety of recreation assets — from the community centers to the lakefront to James Park.

“The challenge is how best to pay for it,” Bobkiewicz said. “How much should be subsidized by taxes, how much should be covered by fees for service, and should we be in every line of recreation programing we are in?”

Residents at the meeting.

He said the city is in the midst of a nearly year-long community dialog to help figure that out.

Former 1st Ward Alderman Art Newman argued that recreation centers should not have to fully cover their expenses.

And he said the revenue shortfall at Chandler-Newberger is less than half as big as the shortfall at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center in the 5th Ward.

It would be “absolutely ridiculous” to close any of the recreation centers, Newman added.

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, said that a discussion about the recreation centers would be on the City Council’s agenda next month.

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward.

She said the discussion about Chandler involved the possibility of doing something different with the building, but she didn’t want to have the council look at it in isolation, but only as part of a larger discussion of the whole city budget.

Related stories

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Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Pigs don’t fly

    Jane Grover and Wally B. did not say what other possible uses for the Chandler would be. Surely, they must have some idea. 

    Could one use be for a federally qualified health center Wally B. is trying to land in Evanston? It's a great location for one – next to mass transportation and Evanston Hospital.

    For those 7th Ward residents that want to keep Chandler open as a rec center, consider that Grover and the City Council just agreed to pay the police sergeant's union a 3 percent pay raise, which is subject to an even larger raise based on the city's contract negotiation's this year with three other union groups.

    Why did Grover and the aldermen last year INCREASE the Evanston Township budget 80 percent and apparently approve a pension for the part-time township assessor, Bonnie Wilson, the former head of the Evanston Democrat party? Not to be out hustled, our aldermen want to get in the pension act as well. They recently asked the Human Relations Committee to explore the possibility of aldermen qualifying for a pension.

    There is also a proposed 15 percent pay raise for the Evanston Township deputy assessor in this year's budget. The Evanston Township Assessor's Office is a DUPLICATIVE SERVICE and should have been subject to the cutting board years ago.

    So while our branch libraries, rec centers and other community services go on the chopping block, the unions still get pay raises, the Evanston Township Assessor's Office gets more money and the township assessor and aldermen might get a pension.

    Meanwhile, Grover and the Council discuss a bag ban, go along with the mayor's denial of a liquor license for a proposed high-end sports bar downtown because the staff dresswear didn't meet her dress standards, enact a green ordinance and spend time deciding whether to call themselves something other than aldermen. 

    I know I seem to repeat myself in these rants but it's so clear the ENTIRE City Council is out of touch and going in the wrong direction in the most delicate time in our city's history.

    In 2008, the City Council voted themselves a 20 percent pay raise. I think they should vote again for a 30 percent pay cut. 

    But pigs don't fly.

    1. Anonymous Al hits the nail on the head

      Anonymous Al,

      You have directly and appropriately brought up most of the relevant issues in a concise and logical manner.

      Sadly, logic doesn't seem to prevail in this community as often as it should.

      One item to clarify, i believe the pension issue for both the township assessor and alderman is a dead issue and they ARE NOT getting pensions. Am i wrong ??

      Thank you for your information and thoughts – hopefully more people listen to you.

  2. gym time

    Regarding the gym and gym time, I coached a D65 bball team this year and we could not get gym time enough to have 2 practices a week at our school gym or any of the rec centers near the school.  Our school gym is booked from the minute school ends until 9 pm every night.  You can't have everything and we have to make choices, but gym time is hard to find in the winter.  



  3. I’m confused

    Help me out here.

    The City Manger – instead of taking on pensions or pay raises – where the big money is – wants to make cuts to those services which make Evanston attractive to families.  Two of those services hit have been located in NW Evanston – the North Branch and now Chandler.

    Having tried to find gym space in this town – I know for a fact, we are short space..   Between the schools and the city there is not enough gym space to meet our needs.

    So – on the one hand Wally wants to shut down Chandler.  Wants to take away a well functioning city resource.  One that has value to anyone who's children play sports.

    Then, on the other hand,  while the City is working to make Evanston less attractive to families, D65 is counting on big new demand.   Adding on to schools and hoping to build one more.   A referendum is being discussed and large amounts of money will need to be raised to add on space.

    Meanwhile, the census numbers showed no meaningful growth – with the slight exception of downtown Evanston. Who's numbers are right?

    Does Evanston want families to move in or not?   Are we seeing growth or decline in families living in Evanston?   And if the city is planning on cutting programs that support families – maybe the schools should pause.   That future demand might not ever arrive.






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