Crown funding OK'd on split vote

Tom Suffredin and Robin Rue Simmons.

Evanston aldermen Monday approved the second of two planned bond issues to fund the new Robert Crown Community Center on a 7-2 vote.

Aldermen Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, and Tom Suffredin, 6th Ward, who'd both voted for the first bond issue last year, urged further delay of the funding vote, despite claims from city staff that the delay would lead to a halt in construction of the building, which is now scheduled to open in December.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said a delay would likely also raise interest costs for the bonds by giving potential buyers doubts about the city's commitment to complete the project and that it might scare off donors who have agreed to fund a substantial portion of the project's cost.

Rue Simmons claimed the decision to fund the project was made "without including the folks who are struggling most to stay here."

But Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, said it would be irresponsible to postpone the vote with all the risks involved.

Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, said that while she's concerned about how to pay for projects, the Crown Center would provide a great service to the community.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said "the chaos" around the Crown project was being perpetuated by social media and "a small number of people" who want to stop the project.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said a delay would make it look like the Council isn't committed to the Crown project, "and that's unbelievable."

Suffredin and Rue Simmons both claimed they didn't want to stop the project, but, after many months of debate over the project, it was unclear what the delay they sought could have accomplished.

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