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Evanston’s City Council Chambers were evacuated for more than 20 minutes in the middle of Monday night’s council meeting after an apparent short circuit in an electrical outlet caused an acrid odor to spread through the front of the room.

Top: Fire Chief Greg Klaiber inspects the smoking outlet. Above: Spectators wait in the council chamber lobby for the meeting to resume.

Fire Chief Greg Klaiber, after examining the smoking outlet built into the desk near where the mayor sits, called for an engine company with a thermal imaging camera to respond to the room and check the raised wooden dias that the aldermen sit behind to be sure the hot spot hadn’t spread.

A firefighter checks a reading from his thermal imaging camera.

After that, and with power to the outlet apparently turned off, a custodian used electrical tape to temporarily tape off the offending outlet, and the meeting resumed — but without the system of lights and switches that aldermen use to signal the mayor that they wish to speak. That gear had been plugged into the malfunctioning outlet.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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8 Comments

  1. Burning budget bigger problem than outlet on fire!

    Last night with the Mayor and council members giving Commonwealth Edison the 3rd degree for the power outages, the city own electrical power malfunctioned.  Adding to the usual silliness at the city council.

    Along with 30 plus speakers, on the wind mill issue, the city was trying to past a new budget at midyear – adding  9 million dollars to capital.  This was very interesting – the claim is for projects from last year, why weren't they included in last years budget?  One only has to look at the city capital plan which is a mess to understand the city inability to track its capital. and create a clear picture of its expenses.

    One item that stood out in the new budget was a $350,000 add to administrative services, when one speaker spoke about this at citizens comment, Wally got a smile on his face.  What is a $350,000 contingency fund being added to the so called capital budget at mid year for?  Why a contingency at mid year don't you know your budget by now?

    $350,000 is the amount it cost to run two branches, one has to wonder what this money is needed for?

    Since the hour got late the council put off discuss of the budget to the next meeting.

    1. Contingency

      Ponzi asked  :  "Why a contingency at mid year don't you know your budget by now?"

       

      Because, dear Ponzi, a contingency fund is by definition money set aside for unexpected expenses.  Unexpected expenses can occur at any time of the year..maybe next week we could have a giant storm that knocks electric power and causes a lot of branches to fall, for example.  

      Moreover, Ponzi, I think that you are missing a bigger issue.  Last night's incident demonstrated, once again, how obsolete and dangerous our 'Civic Center' is.  What will it take to convince the 'friends' of the Civic Center that this old building has to be put out of its misery?  Do we have to wait for dozens of people to die in a fire before we move City government to a modern, safe building?   Enquiring minds want to know.

      1. Contingency solution

        To our enquiring mind still despondent over 708 Church, solutions are all over the downtown area. There are numerous vacancies. If they are too small, perhaps a trimming of the city staff would suffice.

  2. You need to enquire deeper

    Mr Who

    Let me response – I understand what a contingency fund is all about.

    You stated the following-

    Because, dear Ponzi, a contingency fund is by definition money set aside for unexpected expenses.  Unexpected expenses can occur at any time of the year..maybe next week we could have a giant storm that knocks electric power and causes a lot of branches to fall, for example.  

    But a line item for administrative services has nothing to do with capital  contingency- one might wonder if this is for a loss of some type or to out source the department? cost of doing business.

    The city is current spending money from the storm on clean up – it appears it is coming out of the current departments budgets not a contingency fund.  ( forestry and street and san )

    You stated the following

    Moreover, Ponzi, I think that you are missing a bigger issue.  Last night's incident demonstrated, once again, how obsolete and dangerous our 'Civic Center' is.  What will it take to convince the 'friends' of the Civic Center that this old building has to be put out of its misery?  Do we have to wait for dozens of people to die in a fire before we move City government to a modern, safe building?   Enquiring minds want to know.

    Once again you use facts to twist events to claim a problem – the electrical was built into the councils table – it was not part of the original building it is probably twenty years old  not eighty years or more- its is furniture not building structure

    Keep on enquiring!

    1. Street Cleaning

      IF, and I don't for a moment believe homeowners would, homeowners would be required to clean the cans, bottles, paper, etc. from the streets in front of their homes, then we might be able to reduce or eliminate the regular street cleaning and save a not insubstantial amount of the budget.  If as I understand leaves cannot be left in the streets, the city should fine those residents that do put them in the street.

      Even in the 'best' areas of the city, owners will leave cans, bottles, etc. in the gutters outside of their house [and sometimes even on their parkway].  Apparently they don't care how bad it makes their property looks. 

      Unfortunately the city would probably spend even more money hiring inspectors than they spend on the labor/machines for street cleaning.   

      1. Street debris

        Living on a corner lot some blocks away from fast food restaurants, it is a full time job to clean up the debris that litters the parkways and street. One almost is convinced that there is something in the food that attacks the central nervous system and causes a lack of muscular control and ability to hold on to the containers. Has the city health department done any studies? There are also the "considerate" cretins that throw stuff from their cars: beer cans, bottles, cigarette containers.

        Why should I be penalized for these idiots, my taxes are high enough? If the City can buy and rehab a house at twice market value, they should be able to solve this.

        1. Here here!

          We too live on a thoroughfare a few blocks from the fast food mecca, and It is amazing what people throw out of their cars while waiting, in front of our house, for the red light to change to green.  On occasion, I've thrown it back.  Pedestrians can be almost as bad.  It requires constant vigilance to keep up with the litter.  Plus, I just don't want to deal with soda and water bottles with liquid still in them.

          My other pet peeve from living on a thoroughfare, the labor and cost of restoring the parkway each spring after a winter of salted snow and slush is plowed onto it.  

          I can't wait for that retirement condo!

        2. Roycemore and litter

          Shortly Roycemore will move to Davis and Ridge.  With it—I hope—all the garbage that has littered the old Kendall College lot and surrounding neighborhood [which residents don't seem to want to pick-up].

          Maybe at the new location [closer to the Police Dept. and with fewer parks and more restaurants to leave trash at] there will be less tossed garbage in the city.

          Now if NU students can only be taught to not litter, north Evanston will be cleaner.  But don't count on it.  Even with recycle bins 20 feet away they throw cans/bottles/paper in trash bins—if not on the ground.  Then of course football games leave a stream of litter from the stadium to NU.  I'd like to think it is the students/fans from the other schools but it sure seems from campus litter that it is the 'princes' and 'princesses' and aged versions of the same.

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