Recap: Evanston City Council

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

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

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

Meeting called to order at 7:09 p.m. Six members present. Aldermen Fiske, Tendam and Rainey absent.

Public comment

Shocking … nobody signed up to speak. First time that's happened in ages.

Consent agenda

Alderman Wynne, filling in for Alderman Rainey, reads the consent agenda. We'll note any items taken off the consent agenda.

  • 10% water rate increase taken off consent agenda at request of Alderman Braithwaite.
  • Lushe Wine and Spirits lease taken off consent agenda at request of Alderman Fiske.

(Aldermen Fiske and Tendam arrived during reading of consent agenda.)

Consent agenda approved.

Lush Wine & Spirits lease. Fiske says she'll vote against.

Approved 7-1 on voice vote to introduce. Fiske votes no.

Suspension of rules to give immediate approval 6-2. Fiske and Wilson vote no, so suspension of rules fails.

Lush Wine & Spirits liquor license. Given immediate adoption on 8-0 vote.

Water rates 10% increase. Approved 6-2. Braithwaite and Holmes vote no.

Special Order of Business — Budget Discussion

A packet of budget memos is available online here.

City Manager says on Nov. 17 he expects to come back with revisions to the proposed budget and hopes to win approval of the budget at the Nov. 24 meeting.

Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, asks for more detail on vital records office costs.

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl says she's like to see more money put into street paving, so "don't lose ground each year."

Assistant City Manager Marty Lyons says staff proposed five miles of street repaving for this year. Says that wouldn't quite meet a 20-year repair cycle for city streets. Says doing more conflicts with goal of reducing city debt. Had planned to reduce debt by $750K this year. Says could transfer money from current budget year as an alternative.

Says it costs about $700K to pave a mile of street. Says general fund has surplus of $800K for this year. Says general fund is at about 20 percent of fund reserves — compared to goal of 16.67 percent — or two month's worth of spending.

Mayor says even a half-mile extra would be terrific.

Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, asks for clarification about library fund levy by Corporation Counsel Grant Farrar.

Farrar says after some discussions over the years regarding how library board recommends and council adopts.

Farrar says library board has proposed a levy that would exceed its tax capped basis under the library act.

Says city as home rule entity, can it use its home rule powers to adopt a levy that exceeds the tax cap, or choose instead to have a levy that is within the tax cap.

Says he's of the opinion that the city can choose to adopt a lower levy amount than that recommended by the library board — to the extent that it exceeds the statutory cap.

Burrus says so since the library board is going above the statutory limit, the City Council has discretion in voting the levy.

Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, asks about funding for animal shelter. City manager says is not anticipating any fundraising money in the 2015 budget, since plans for that are still in the works. So the $35K showing in the budget is planned to come out of the general fund.

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, asks how much the library board levy exceeds the cap.

Lyons says the levy has been dynamic over the past few years, the County Clerk has been reducing the assessed values, with raises the levy percentage to meet the revenue.

Says special service area #4 that funds the downtown has a cap that's set by ordinance — for example falls short by about $100K of its $400K levy.

Based on 2.2 billion, forced the library rate up to about .26 — above the statutory limit — assuming the assessed value doesn't change. 

Have cap at .23.

So are a little more than 10 percent over … or about $600K

Alderman Fiske says thinks the $35K for animal shelter will work for operations. Says has been big discussion about reduction of costs. Been doing outreach to organizations that can help reduce costs.

Bobkiewicz says donations for animal shelter are being placed in a special fund. Also has been discussion about whether to set up a 501(c)3 for the shelter. Haven't had a city board do that directly yet. Still sorting through "best next steps" on that.

Lyons says it's now a separate account within the general fund.

Burrus says have had big challenges in the past with a 501(c)3 run the shelter — not clear should be establishing a new one.

Bobkiewicz says shelter is running well, but expect to talk more about next steps — at Human Services committee next month.

End of budget discussion.

Call of the wards

Braithwaite … Thursday 2nd Ward meeting, 7p @ D65 admin bldg. New owners of Evanston Plaza will be there to answer questions from residents.

Braithwaite asks for update of west Evanston plan. Bobkiewicz says last plan required substantial resources and that hasn't been budgeted for next year.

Holmes says it started with the Plan Commission, so should start there. Says it was a long process.

Braithwaite wants fresh look at from Lake Street to Main Street.

Holmes says it started in 2003, before she got on the council, and wasn't finally approved until 2007.

Tendam wants discussion of "invisible fences" (for animals) says "it hasn't had good results" in his ward.

Grover says Zombie Scramble was a big success. Says saddened that Next Theatre has gone dark.

Meeting adjourned at 8:03 p.m.

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