Evanston Township officials have seen a spike this fall in the number of residents seeking general assistance as efforts continue to trim the town’s overhead costs.

The City Council’s Human Services Committee Monday night approved a plan to spend $24,750 to hire Novak Consulting Group of Cincinnati, Ohio, to conduct “an operational effectiveness, efficiency and organizational audit” of the township.

The full town board, which consists of the city’s aldermen and mayor, approved seeking bids for the audit project last May.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz says seven firms submitted bids to do the work and Novak proved to be the best qualified, as well as the lowest bidder.

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, noted that the caseload of general assistance clients “which had been level at around 100 people for a long time” had spiked to 128 in November.

Township Director Rosemary Jean-Paul said the increased resulted from more homeless people and people who had exhausted their unemployment benefitsapplying for general assistance.

“This is the first time we’ve had such a huge jump in a long time,” Jean-Paul said, “and I still have 15 applications on my desk to be approved.”

Jean-Paul said the most dramatic increase has been in clients between the ages of 51 and 62 years old. She says the township had 47 general assistance clients in that age group in July and has 65 now.

Township government now costs Evanston taxpayers about $1.5 million a year. Bobkiewicz says work is continuing to move the township offices into the Civic Center from rented space at Main Street and Dodge Avenue by the time the lease on the current space expires next September.

That is expected to save about $160,000 a year.

The township last month finished moving its client record files from a storage container at a Public Storage facility to a container on the fifth floor of the Civic Center at an expected annual savings of about $2,200 a year.

And township and city officials say they’re continuing to work on cost savings efforts on accounting, information technology and website development costs.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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