Here’s a recap of our live coverage of tonight’s Evanston City Council Administration and Public Works Committee meeting.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.

A packet with information on tonight’s agenda items is available online.

Meeting called to order at 6:08 p.m.

Alderman Grover is absent tonight.

Minutes approved.

Payroll and bills approved.

A3.1 – Water main and street resurfacing contract $2.5 million to A. Lamp Concrete of Schaumburg. Approved.

A3.2 – Street improvement contract for $1.1 million to A. Lamp Concrete. Approved.

A3.3 – ADT Alarm monitoring agreement $13.86K per year. Five year term.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, asks whether will cut false alarm fees.

Perry Polinski, 911 coordinator, says the new contract won’t have any impact on the false alam fee the city now charges.

There are only about 125 alarms connected directly to the 911 center now. Most alarms now are monitored at a private alarm company’s central station.

Says it should reduce the number of false alarms because the old system tends to be less reliable — especially in bad weather.

A4 – Law Enforcement Mutual Aid Agreement. Approved.

A5 – Memorandum of Understanding with Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management for emergency equipment assistance.

Police Chief Richard Eddington says it’s for extra equipment in times of disaster and emergency.

Eddington says we’d only have to pay for the equipment “if we break something.”

Approved. 

A6 – Renewal of easment with MWRD for sewer line on Poplar Avenue. Approved.

A7 – Howard Hartrey TIF district surplus distribution of $1 million.

Alderman Rainey says, “I hate this.” Not convinced will have the money to spare.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz says have heard those concerns. Believes can still cover the infrastructure improvements with the remaining funds available.

Rainey says hasn’t seen anything in the plan about the possible Culver’s restaurant project on an outlot in the TIF site.

Bobkiewicz says will provide more detail at City Council meeting later tonight.

Approved.

A8 – Alley Paving Special Assessment.

For alley north of Leonard Place and east of Wesley Avenue.

Jules Martin, 1319 Leonard Place, speaks in favor of the paving project. Says alley is a mess now. Says eight of the 14 neighbors signed petition in favor of the project. Understands some others are opposed because of the cost. But says will add to quality of live and property values.

Rainey says we love to pave alleys. After looking at photo provided by Martin says a small child could drown in the puddles.

Stephanie Reager, 1304 Noyes, objects to the project says puddles don’t last long. Says don’t need more concrete. Says will make conditions on Noyes Street, where the water will flow, even worse.

Says cost will be nearly $200K … the six households opposed will each have to pay over $7K. Says this will mean only rich people will be able to live in the community.

Rainey says city has a program to pay alley assessment for impoverished homeowners. Says the drainage won’t put the water into the street.

Dan Lewis, 1304 Noyes, says a lot of the older people on the block opposed the project because of the cost.

Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, says concerned about petition process — worried about peer pressure. Why not also send out post cards to see whether there’s sufficient support. Says has real problems with the process. (Says use the postcard approach for speed bumps, which the city doesn’t even charge residents for.)

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, says there’s also a public hearing.

Rainey says speed hump has nothing to do with charging. Says courts determine how the alley paving process operates — not the city.

Says its not a simple process — people need to stand up and say they’re willing to pay.

Says she has a woman in her ward who tried for 25 years to get an alley in her ward paved. People need to stand up and be counted if want to be paid. It’s just like an election, she says, majority rules.

Rainey says Burrus is totally wrong on the issue.

Holmes says in the past — like when she bought her house in 1962 — the city didn’t pick up any of the cost of paving alleys. Now it covers half the cost.

Burrus says there are alternatives to paving.

Holmes says its been tried on this, and other alleys, and many times it just doesn’t work.

Rainey says the real economical and safe solution is to pave alleys.

Public Works Director Suzette Robinson says the special assessment process for alley paving is a legal process dictated by the courts. Also determines how costs are apportioned among the residents along the alley. And requires a public hearing.

Says typically there is a resident who’d like to have the alley paved. The city provides a petition for them to circulate — which includes an estimate from the city of the cost.

Says city, after the petition is turned in, notifies all the property owners of the public hearing.

Says the speed bump postcard process is easier and cheaper.

City Manager says happy to implement whatever policies the City Council wants to implement. But Public Works Department has been implementing council policy.

Burrus says she’s worried about people dealing with peer pressure. Rainey says, “How can you be peer pressured into paying $7K?”

Robinson says people can call and take their name off the petition.

Paving approve 3-1. Burrus votes no.

APW1 – Banner policy discussion

Robinson says have had a couple of discussions … trying to cut the cost to city of putting up and taking down banners.

Says generally wants to limit banners to city-funded banners and banners for city sponsored events.

Says are some exceptions …

Local government entities can have banners within a block of their location.
Hospitals and the university … also limited to a one-block radius.
Downtown Evanston … which has its own banner program.

Rainey asks about rule that says no banner on Ridge, Green Bay or Dempster (four lane major streets — to reduce driver distraction). Robinson says the hospitals, government agencies and university could have banners on those streets, within the one-block radius.

Robinson says banners could only be displayed between May 1 and Oct. 31.

Burrus asks about banners at Grey Park, Ridge and Main. Says dangerous and looks terrible.

Robinson says staff is designing a better display system for that corner.

Braithwaite says has received requests from neighborhood groups to put up banners to identify neighborhoods within the ward.

Holmes says that may be addressed by the wayfinding signage policy that’s under development. Could be something other than banners. Says have had a couple of presentations in Economic Development Committee on it.

Braithwaite adds that want to be able to do promotion for private businesses for period of time.

Bobkiewicz says haven’t been able to find a sweet spot with the proposals from the consultants on the wayfinding — so don’t have a specific date.

Says if neighobrhood group wants to pay for the banner and the cost of putting them up, that could be included in the policy.

Grant Farrar, corporation counsel, says regarding businesses doing own banners — says that gets into issues of content neutrality and free speech. If allow one, but deny another could end up with challenges in court. Says would be imprudent to have a policy that would permit businesses to post banners.

Also is tort immunity issue. If business puts them up — they would have to take the risk legally –but the the city, realistically, would still end up getting sued if a banner fell and somebody got hurt.

Braithwaite says he sees inconsistency between what’s done downtown and on west side.

Bobkiewicz says that’s OK — if business association puts them up — and assuming it’s mainly promoting the district and just giving a credit to the individual business that contributed to paying for it.

No vote on this…just discussion issue.

Meeting adjourned at 7:09 p.m.

Planning and Development Committee meeting to start at 7:15 p.m.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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