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.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation

13 Comments

  1. Ice Arena

    No discussion of seasonality of use.  Additionally, no conversation about demand for studio vs. full size rink.  Winnetka put a second rink in which is outdoors.  Evanston should consider this.
     

  2. Council members don’t think they approved a tax increase?
    When I approached one council member they did not think they approved a tax increase for Robert Crown?
    You pass a resolution to get a couple million from the state as a grant and then you say you are going to spend $17 million to over $30 million – looks like a 3% -6% property tax increase to me for 30 years.
    I do think it is necessary to spend money on Crown given the ice system appears to be failing, but we need to take a very conservative approach and spend as little as possible to keep the place running rather than adding any thing new, the one option was to add a branch library? cost $2.5 million dollars capital plus at least $200,000 operating, I though the library broad was approving library expenditures not the council? in many ways its a mess, council members can’t seem to face the fact they need to spend money, and can’t seem to come up with a plan.
    How about a little leadership Mayor?

  3. Deficit

    I'm no mathemagician, but if I read this correct, only about $100k – of the total $500K – operating deficit comes from the ice rinks?  What makes up the other 80% of the deficit?

     

    1. Deficit

      Other recreation programs at the center — which isn't just an ice rink.

      Staff said at the meeting that all of the city's recreation centers run an operating deficit.

      — Bill

      1. Apples to Apples?

        Did the city do an apples to apples comparison by comparing Robert Crown (Ice and Community center) with these other ice arenas?

      2. How many use ice?

        Is there any data on participant-deficit ratio available?  How many participants actively use the ice and ice programming v. the other deficit producing programming?

  4. Not many visitors are skaters

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

    Very few of those are skaters… Evanston Youth Hockey can barely suit-up enough teams… due in part for many reasons: Time commitment to play hockey, cost (last I checked, "Travel Hockey" cost more than $3,000 a season, not including equipement… try and find a stick for less than $150!). Evanston Speedskating is a shell of what it used to be. Sorry, don't know about figure skating because none of my girls skate. The majority of the 100K-146K are day care/day campers. It is my understanding the Crown is the highest energy user of all City facilities… I'm sure that's some serious coin for daycare!

     

    1. Evanston can “barely suit up teams”?

      Don't know where you get your information from, but Evanston Hockey is alive and well. The current season had 8 House teams, 6 Travel teams and 3 High School teams (including the ETHS girls team, which was resurrected this season). That's close to 300 hockey players, hardly what I would call "very few" users. There is also a healthy adult league that uses the ice until after midnight most days. Hockey is growing in popularity in the Chicago area, and Evanston is no exception.

      1. Dump and Chase

        That's awesome! So how come the city can't throw a little coin into maintaining Crown? How long has the roof leaked!!!!?

      2. Ice Usage

        I'm glad you know what you're talking about, because others are making unfounded assumptions!  Those adult programs run 7 days per week, all year long.   Broomball is alive and well, and has been since the facility opened in 1975.   The rink is well-used…not to mention all the private parties, public skating, the Tigers women's hockey team that has been renting ice for 17 years, and the youth hockey classes, Northwestern Synchro, private broomball rentals, etc., etc., etc.  Groups actually get turned away because there is no ice available.  and….by the way….someone said there are no hockey sticks that cost under $150 ???  Really???   Where's that person shopping?

    2. Evanston Youth Hockey is a

      Evanston Youth Hockey is a tiny portion of the hockey players at crown.  There is ETHS hockey, drop in hockey, private hockey rentals, Northwestern hockey, hockey teams from other towns looking for extra ice, hockey tournaments, etc.  There are also lots of figure skaters, some speed skaters, public skate, broomball, birthday party ice rentals, etc.

      I go to crown very frequently and have not been counted by a city employee for years.  Therefore I think the visitor count cannot be very accurate.

      Old ice rinks consume a lot of energy due to poorly designed equipment and poor insulation.  Crown's climate control is badly broken (I bet it will be extremely cold in the ice rink tomorrow, go and see for yourself) and I doubt a renovation will be sufficient to insulate the place well enough to make it energy efficient.

    3. Crown Usage

      Of course Crown has the highest energy consumption in the City!   It's open from 5:00 am for the figure skaters, and closes around 1:00 am from the hockey skaters.   That's a 20 hour day, MOST days of the year……the gym is used constantly….(more lights and heating/cooling), and the camp programs are only for 10 weeks in the summer.  And while the camps take place in the gym and other rooms, there are on-ice camps going on the entire summer as well.  Evanston's Travel Hockey is the least expensive on the North Shore, and they are loaded with teams….and don't even have enough ice time.  House League is very reasonably priced, and is loaded with teams as well…..DON'T know where you get your info from.  You can get a good youth hockey stick for under $40!  Evanston hockey also loans equipment out to players in need…..FULL sets, with hockey bags.

      1. Thorn in My Crown

        How much is Travel Hockey? Somewhere North of $3,000 last I checked. Betcha $100 you can't find a decent stick for UNDER $100… at least not for a kid who is taking slappers! Where do I get my information? I played Evanston Hockey and so did all three of my kids. I dare you to add up your expenses… all your expenses… and publish the total. People who's kids do not play hockey would be shocked….And its not lights that are burning energy…its the vintage compressors. Here's my point: I have no interest in giving our elected officials and the morons running the recreation department one thin dime to pump into a facility that they have ignored for more than 25 years! Look, hockey is a great game and once your kid starts playing, there is no turning back. I can honestly say that I have never heard of a child walking away from the game 'cause it was not fun…And you are right, Evanston Hockey and the cost of ice in Evanston is the lowest on the North Shore…(so low that at one time, Skokie bought ice from Evanston because they could make a profit by turning around and selling it to their programs!) It would not be the cheapest if Crown were not operating in the red!!!

        I'm all for subsidizing recreation…to a ppoint…I just want more bang for MY buck!

        If the city can't opperate Crown without  a least breaking even, they need to get out of the business.

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