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Recap: Administration and Public Works Committee

Here's a recap of our live coverage of this evening's Evanston City Council Administration and Public Works Committee meeting.

Meeting called to order at 6:06 p.m.

A packet with information on tonight's agend items is available online.

Minutes, payroll and bills approved.

A3.1 – Contract with A. Lamp Concreat for Civic Center parking lot. Approved.

A3.2 – Insurance renewals. Approved.

A3.3 – Contract for water treatment chemicals. Approved.

A 3.4 – Facade improvement program grant to Bankers and Lace. $30K grant. Approved.

A3.5 – "Certificate of Rehabilitation" program contract with Moran Center for Youth Advocacy. Approved.

A3.6 – Agreement to purchase property for park and accept new Ashland Avenue extended roadway.

Betty Ester complains that roadway is a cul-de-sac that will only benefit residents of the apartment complex.

Acknowledges that are plans for extend the street to Emerson, but says they appear to be on hold.

Sarah Flax, city's housing and grants administrator, says the park is a requirement of the West Evanston Master Plan. Says street will be put through to Emerson as part of phase two of the Emerson Square project.

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, asks what schedule is for phase two?

Flax says it's a major objective of the development and the plan, which always had been divided by the former railroad right of way. Says there are funding challenges at this point.

Grover … likely funding sources?

Flax…says low income housing tax credits can't be used for property acquisition. Says are considering seeking a CDBG loan to make the purchase.

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, says acquistion cost of the property proposed to be acquired tonight is $10.

Acquisition is approved.

A5 – Amendments to FY 2014 budget. Increases general fund expenditures by $1.6 million.

Discussion regarding details for transition from township to city. Finance Director Marty Lyons says audit for the final four months of township operation has just been completed. Expects to present that to City Council next month.

Approved.

A6 – Fiscal Year 2015 city budget.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, proposes to split the budget to separate out the library, so can have separate vote on it. Says wants to vote for the city budget, doesn't want to support the library budget.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz says library budget isn't subject to City Council approval, but the tax levy is.

Bobkiewicz says can take the library budget out of the ciity budget document.

Alderman Grover library budget included for informational purposes? Doesn't need to be included?

Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, says extending beyond the state levy requiremnt … of .23 percent… says the City Council does need to give approval for the library board to be able to use the city's home rule authority to levy the tax.

Bobkiewicz says, then don't approve it.

Says what happens in other communities when there are disputes, there is no funding fo the library board until the library board comes back with a levy that will be approved by the City Council.

Says if the City Council is not comfortable with the levy, then should not approve it.

Grover so library budget already approved by only entity that has authority to approve it — the library board. Yes, Bobkiewicz says.

Rainey says how do I send the message that 11 percent is unconscionable.

Bobkiewicz says need five votes against adoption of the levy.

Bobkiewicz says the Council can't amend the library levy — but can reject it and, in effect, force the library board to come back with a new levy that's acceptable to the council.

Rainey says she doesn't want ot shut down the library.

Bobkiewicz says there is a deadline for submitting the levy to Cook County and he's confident that the library board will be back with another levy proposal quickly to meet that deadline.

Grover says the library board held five public hearings on its budget.

Burrus says City Council has to act on the levy — says library board isn't elected. Says this is the time to debate and say go back to the library and say 11% is outrageous. Says people she's talked to are only thinking very narrowly about the library. The library board only cares about the library.

Says this is the time to send a directive. It's not about shutting the library down — but to have the the library board be more responsive. Says be interesting to see the socioeconomic makeup of the library board — do they understand the other needs in the community. They don't understand how important it is to look at the community in a wholistic manner.

Grover says library is responding to community demand for its services. Says it's following the law in how it reviews and allocates its budget. Says much of the increase this year is for affordable care act premiums for part-time library employees. … and to take care of its infrastructure.

Says it's embarrasing how little Evanston spends on its library services. Says not playing a little bit of catch up from years and years of the library being involved in a tough political process.

Says she trusts the library board to make wise decisions on our behalf.

Rainey says Grover is the one who politicizes the library. Says library board has far exceeded the state statute. Says there are libraries all around this community that we can go to. This library doesn't have to be like every other library. Everytime I see the percapita spending on the library I just yawn–that's not the only indication of a quality library. Can go on line and get stuff from any library.

Rainey says: whenever you are talking about allocating resources, I guess you are talking about politics. Outrageous when this city council is trying to keep expenditures down. They never came to us to talk.

Burrus says it's about being fiscally responsible. Says council has done that and that's why we are balancing budget and have a little bit of surplus. We said to many departments you had to cut 3 percent.

Says it's so insulting for a non-elected board to come in and demand an 11 percent increase.

Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, says library board members and library director have been present at ward meetings and that the library reaches out to a very broad demographic … house employment services and workforce development … done extraordinary effort to represent a broad segment of town.

Says for a typical house the library levy increase is only about $25.

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl says library board is diverse — two African-Americans, one Asian and one person who is mobility impaired.

Burrus says it's not about ethnicity but socioeconomic status. People who can't understand what it is to not be able to afford to pay their taxes — those are the people I hear from

Rainey says when he bought her house taxes were $300 and something — now when she's selling it its $1,700 or more. It's only $20 at a time — but it adds up.

Says the library is not special, it's another public service. And says the services Braithwaite referred to could be done with less.

Rainey says they can do it with less — or could raise rates for library users.

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, says have to remember that the 11 percent rings hard with some of us when other departments are being asked to cut 3 percent.

Rainey says just because library has this unfettered authority to charge us whatever they want doesn't make it right.

Rainey moves to reduce the water rate increase from 10 percent to 5 percent.

Bobkiewicz says the water rate increase isn't on the committee agenda tonight–but on the full council agenda. Says can take it off consent at full council.

Holmes says will remove it from consent agenda at full council meeting later tonight.

A7 – Amending Class P liquor license to allow sale of alcohol in containers of 200ml or greater.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, concerned about the amount … which is about 6.762 fluid ounces.

Says there's nothing to keep anybody from coming in and buying just one of the bottles. Says loves the gift basket idea with several varieties.

Rainey says … have you ever been to a really tacky liquor store — have these really tiny bottles. Says we're doing so much radical stuff with liquor — love it — but thought this went off the path.

Todd, rep from Few Spirits says the stuff behind the counter at the cheap liquor stores is 50ml.

Todd says 750ml is the standard container size in the U.S. Says that typically sells for $60 and up.

Bobkiewicz says perhaps could bring a sample.

Holmes says knowing that price for small one would be $20 or more reassures her that won't be having people buy them casually.

Proposed ordinance approved, (even Rainey votes for it) with recommendation to council to give it immediate effect.

Meeting adjourned at 7:19 p.m.

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