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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 6:40 p.m. A packet with information on tonight’s agenda items is available online.

Meeting called to order at 6:49 p.m., although several aldermen don’t respond to the roll call.

COVID-19

Mayor Steve Hagerty says the pandemic news continues to be positive in Evanston.

On average Evanston has had two new cases per day recently.

Says for the state and region the news hasn’t been so good — about a 50% increase in the seven-day average of new cases. Still “green” though on the metrics.

Says the positive rate statewide is 3%, which is good, but there has been an increasing number of positive cases, especially among young people.

Says there’s a concern that if the increases continue, there may be a need to roll back to more of a lockdown.

Police

Hagerty on police funding and operations — mentions his series of Monday noontime Facebook Live presentations.

Says City Council will discuss police budget at its next meeting, on July 27.

Council votes to approve holding virtual meeting tonight.

Interim City Manager Erika Storlie announces that beach hours are shifting. Sand hours now will close at 9 p.m. (Lakefront parks will remain open until 11 p.m.)

Storlie says Rules Committee will discuss next month whether to return to in person meetings. That meeting will be Aug. 3.

Public Comment

Ends at 7:46 p.m.

SP1 – CARES act allocation

Coronavirus programs federal aid.

Sarah Flax, city’s housing administrtor, says are working with housing providers regarding housing for homeless, hope to have some of them ready for review at next City Council meeting. Finding new housing for people now temporarily housed in hotels. Also may be looking at assistance to small businesses.

Approved 9-0.

SP-2 – Civic Center Update

Staff presentation of potential to relocate some city staff to the library.

Lara Biggs, city engineer, does the presentation.

Says there’s about 5,800 square feet immediately available at the library — southeast corner of the third floor.

Says that area’s not big enough to relocate ALL civic cener operations.

City has a lot of documents that haven’t been digitized that need space.

Says would take about 15,000 square feet of space to relocate all civic center staff — assuming there’s still a lot of remote work.

Says could relocate some staff and storage to other buildings like the service center and recreation centers.

Could also do a phased relocation that initially would require about 5,800 square feet of space.

Goal of having a one-stop customer service desk would be easier with a new space.

Staff recommends putting public-facing operations at the library. Provides lowest cost option and a one-stop service desk.

Mayor asks about HVAC issue.

Biggs says in one way the very large civic center space is good (the oversize space with relatively few people helps reduce COVID spread). But the HVAC system is not geared to dealing with a COVID-like virus. It’s not the way buildngs have been designed. And because the Civic Center doesn’t have centralized forced air ventilation, the city can’t do a lot of things that could otherwise be done to improve air circulation.

Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, says she’s concerned about people having to pay for meter parking downtown. Says would prefer using Robert Crown Center Center. Make it a parks and rec hub., she says.

Storlie says could have validation program for parking for people who came to the library to pay city bills.  Says it’s also more accessible by public transit.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, says should go to the public. Doesn’t think the public will want to move from the Civic Center. If need to do new HVAC system should do it — would be worth the cost.

Says should form subcommittee of aldermen to discuss the issue.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, disagrees with Rainey. Says need to rethink HVAC systems likely will continue. The cost of doing that in an old building is enormous, she says. Likes the idea of consolidating the customer service desk.

Don’t let a crisis go to waste, she says. Lot of companies are re-thinking their officing. Finding a lot can be done remotely.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, says she agrees with Wynne. Likes the idea of using the library. Says there’s an incredible amount of parking there. Will add people as customers for downtown businesses.

Says could eventually turn Civic Center says into combination of affordable and market rate housing.

Civic Center is totally inefficient for the city, she says.

In response to question from mayor, Storlie says the library building is owned by the city and the library is a tenant.

Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, says need to have community process to discuss the future of the Civic Center site and to make sure the environmental assets of the site will be protected.

Storlie says no decisions have been made yet. Just recommending that relocate 30 people the library to provide services to the public in a short time frame.

Says early voting at the Civic Center wouldn’t be safe without a lot of expensive renovations.

Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, says he’s concerned about the recovering period and being able to deliver services to residents. Says conversation about selling the land is preamature. Says we’re now in full construction season, even with COVID, and he’s receiving complaints from contractors and residents about difficulties meeting with staff to get projects approved.

Says should move forward with the plan to move some operations to the library.

Hagerty says if relocate, doesn’t mean it’s permanent? Biggs agrees.

Biggs says could have space in library set up by sometime this fall.

Biggs says will look into a solution for early voting, but don’t have it yet.

Alderman Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward, says the temporary move to the library sounds like a good idea to her.

At 9 p.m. Hagerty says it sounds from the discussion that staff should move forward with plans for temporary move to the library and then have a much more robust and detailed conversation about the long term future of the civic center property.

Consent agenda

Off consent agenda:

Minutes, A1, A2, A12, A15, A17, A18, A19, A26, ED2

Suspension of the rules for consent agenda items set introduction and action tonight.

Fleming objects to granting new liquor licenses on same night as introduction.

But then clarifies that only one she was concerned about was A26, which was already off the consent agenda.

So she switches her vote and suspension of the rules is approved, as required, with a unanimous vote.

Then consent agenda is approved.

Minutes

Wilson moves to correct June 8 minutes to accurately reflect a public comment speaker’s remarks.

With that amendment, June 8 minutes are approved.

June 22 minutes approved.

A1 – Payroll and Bills

Wilson moves to amend … four invoices for election consulting in the clerk’s office. Says it appears the work was provided after the election. Wants clarification from Clerk Reid, who’s not present tonight, before approvingthose.

Amendment approved, 9-0.

Payroll and Bills, as amended, are approved, 9-0.

A2 – BMO Harris Amazon credit card activity

Approved 8-0, Suffredin abstains.

A12 – NU Tailgating

Request withdrawn by NU. So off agenda.

A15 – Extension of declaration of emergency

Amended in committee to extend only until July 27. (instead of Sept. 14).

Approved as amended

A17 – Raising debt limit

Approved 9-0.

A18 – 2019 Budget amendment

Approved 7-2. Fleming and Suffredin vote no.

A19 – 2020 General obligation bond issues

Approved 7-2. Fleming and Suffredin vote no.

A26 – American Legion liquor license amendment

Rainey says she’d heard that several people have an objection to this in concept. Asks what it is.

Fiske says what’s being requested is a liquor license that was issued under open space zoning. Says open space zoning doesn’t permit liquor sales.

Says liquor for members is very different than having a bar open to the general public on open space land.

Says have had interest in the past from people who would like to sell alcohol in the parks, other than for a temporary special event permit.

Says before we expand this license want to know implications for the rest of the park system — lakefront, Harley Clarke, etc.

Revelle says Legion has a Class S liquor license, only one in Evanston, can serve now members and “boosters.”

They want to be more welcoming to neighbors and golfers. Says she favored suspending the rules because would make possible to use the patio area during the summer.

Wilson moves for introduction (vote on action postponed two weeks).

Approved 8-1. Fiske votes no.

ED2 – Funding for CNSCVB

Suffredin suggests skipping the funding for this year, given the pandemic.

Paul Zalmezak, economic development manager, says its important during downturns to continue to market.

Gina Speckman, CNSCVB director, says has worked to promote restaurants as they’ve reopened and are committed to successful revival of restaurants and hotels.

Speckman says rules now are that if a community leaves the group have to stay off it for three years.

Wilson says this is the time we are going to need the marketing and networking resource. It’s money well spent, and appreciates that the ask for the year has been reduced by 50%.

Fleming says she’s not sure how the CNSCVB funding pays off for businesses. Would rather pay the money directly to Evanston businesses.

Approved 7-2. Fleming and Suffredin vote no.

Call of the Wards

Fleming … Ward meeting Wednesday. And joint July 21 meeting with Suffredin about police.

Fiske … Makes reference to Plan Commisison to rezone west side of 1900 block of Orrington and adjoining section of Foster from R4A to R1. (Vote is 9-0 to approve the referral.)

Wilson … Makes referral to P&D committee to repeal the three-unrelated ordinance.

Rue Simmons … On defunding police … says shares the goal … Says city has shown some leadership and think we’re ready for more radical change.

Suffredin .. July 21 meeting with Felming about police.

Council votes to go into executive session.

Public meeting ends at 9:59 p.m.

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