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Recap: City Council

Here's a recap of our live coverage of tonight's Evanston City Council meeting.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7:15 p.m.

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

Meeting called to order at 7:20 p.m. … with word that it's Alderman Tendam's birthday.

First Night Update. Emily Guthrie says have $8,700 left over from this year. Raised more than $100K on what had initially been budgeted for $70K Says were very successful in recruiting donations.

Says had 2,400 people at the event, 800 bought their buttons that day.

Looking for more tie-in with downtown restaurants next year.

Planning modest expansion for next year, including more events to appeal to teens.

Fire Chief Greg Klaiber presents his department's annual report.

Says the department's 110 firefighters responded to 9,373 calls for service — the second highest annual total in the department's history.

Says having the five fire stations in town provides for an excellent response time to calls.

Planning to replace a 23-year-old aerial ladder truck this year.

Assistant Public Works Director James Maiworm says crews have been working to fill potholes in town. Says may get a few more days of patching work in before the next snowfall.

Citizen Comment

Junad Rizki says the Robert Crown Center rehab proposal would mean a two to five percent increase in property taxes. Says spend $150K on failed public-private partnership concept for Crown.

Says some things at Crown are falling apart and need to be fixed, but doesn't need to be competely rebuilt.

Says is OK with going for the proposed $2.5M state grant for the project, and add just a few million more of city funds — completing the project for far less than what's being proposed.

Jackie April repeats her argument that voters should reject township dissolution referendum.

Neal Moglin provides cupcakes for the birthday boy, who he reveals is 59.

Special order of business — Robert Crown Center report

Related story here.

Assistant City Manager Marty Lyons says doing a private financing would double the interest rate cost of a project — and none of the models showed an ability to cover the financing costs through operating revenues.

(Loan rates have gone up dramatically since the real estate market collapse last decade.)

Says some commercial rink operators are charging $470 an hour for ice time compared to $325 that Evanston charges.

Says there is concern about whether demand will evaporate with higher rates.

Is concern that more ice will just cannibalize demand.

Wilmette originally built its ice rink in 1972 and has doesn two renovations — $13M in 1990s and $2M last year.

Says if don't do something with Crown soon, will have "downtime" with the ice within the next two or three years — presumably because of maintenance issues.

Says proposed $17M rehab would be very complete — presumably would be designed to hold up for at least 20 years — because that would be the duration of the bond financing.

Says currently run an operating deficit of a bit over $500K a year at Crown, says anticipate with rehab the deficit would be a bit under $500K a year. Most of that deficit comes from community center operations — not from the ice rink (only about $100K of the deficit is from the ice rink).

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, notes that debt level for pensions is rising, even though city has held back on capital improvement debt in recently years.

Parks Director Joe McRae says 100K to 146K visitors to the Crown community center — the highest of any of the centers in town.

Rainey says it seems inefficient to build two separate buildings — which is one of the options considered.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, says could have built a more basic-looking ice rink if it didn't have to be attached to a community center.

In response to question from Rainey, Lyons says the committee didn't consider the option of going out to the community for an advisory referendum.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, says she's concerned that if we spend money on a new facility, somebody else may come along with an even better one.

Lyons says he hasn't looked at what other communities may be considering over the next few years.

Fiske asks what would cost be to build a quonset hut with an NFL rink in it? Lyons says doesn't have that info.

Grover asks whether city is past-due for a renovation. 

Lyons says if doing 20-year financing, may decide that after 20 years it's time to do a rehab. But says Crown was probably due or a rehab 10 or 12 years ago.

Lyons says staff recommendation is to go forward with the request for the state grant. The deadline to apply is March 10.

Wilson says subcommittee members are looking for donations to help reduce the city's cost. Says clearly something needs to be done. OK with having staff pursue the renovation option, with some hope for financing a bigger project.

Lyons says also need to look at change in the business model — raising fees to reduce the size of the city operating subsidy.

Rainey says could also look at contracting out the management of the facility.

Wilson moves to approve application for the grant. Approved unanimously.

Consent agenda

We'll note anything taken off the consent agenda.

A4 – Sale of surplus fleet vehicle taken off consent agenda. (APW committee voted to hold off on the sale.)

Nothing else removed. Consent agenda approved.

Call of the wards

Grover — 7th & 5th Ward meeting 7p Thursday at Lewis Hall at NU.

Fiske — 1st Ward meeting Tuesday of next week 7p at EPL.

Council votes to go into executive session.

Public meeting ends at 9:20 p.m.

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