Evanston aldermen tonight are scheduled to get reports on how much it could cost to fix the city’s public buildings, roads and utilities.

The special City Council meeting starts at 6:15 p.m. in the Council Chambers at the Civic Center.

Assistant City Manager Marty Lyons says even the city’s newest major public building — the Levy Center — is now more than 10 years old. The next newest, the Evanston Public Library — is over 20 years old — and needs major upgrades — among other things — to its heating and cooling systems, Lyons said.

While the city has made periodic upgrades to various buildings — including putting a new, largely grant-funded, roof on the century old Noyes Cultural Arts Center this year — there’s been growing concern that the city may not have been spending enough to preserve the facilities and infrastructure it already has.

With budgets severely constrained the past few years because of declining revenue during the recession and rising pension and health care costs, aldermen have tried to hold down spending on capital projects.

But with City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz saying he foresees “no layoffs and no significant reductions in services” in his 2014 budget due next month, aldermen see some opportunity for tackling the deferred maintenance issues.

At a priority-setting meeting in July, the aldermen agreed that better managing city facilities, streets and the water utility would be three of their top six goals for the next few years.

Top: Scaffolding used to protect visitors from falling roofing materials at the Noyes Center before the new roof was installed this year.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Crumbling Infrastructure

    Perhaps until the infrastructure is fixed, grants to private companies and some festivals should be restricted.

  2. And parks?

    And what about parks?  The condition of our parks and playing fields is embarassing — take a look around Crown and James.

    With Doug Gaynor stepping down, we have an opportunity to bring our fields up to at least a safe condition — and there are many that are not safe for play right now.

    We compete with other municipalities for residents, and parks and fields are a factor more so than the condition of buildings heating and cooling system. We can't ignore this problem any longer, otherwise we will see more injuries at our parks and the city will be liable.

    1. James and Crown have been ignored

      The heavily used path at James Park is an eyesore and a risk. Every time it rains… even if lightly, it turns to a swamp. How long is it going to take to fix the drinking fountain?

      If the city used a fraction of what was dropped into the lakefront path, we who use the James Park path would be living large…. and don't get me started about Crown…That place hace been ignored for decades…decades! 

      Both properties (two of the city's largest) are perfect reasons why the City should have nothing to do with ANY kind of development. 

    2. Agreed — fields at James Park are in dismal condition

      I have seen vacant urban lots that have better grass than on the fields at James Park.  Weeds, large mud patches and ruts are standard on these fields.

      Earlier this month, a refereee stopped a children's soccer game at James Park so that the adults could collect all of the broken glass strewn around the field.  I know one of the adults who was there and it took almost 10 minutes for the adults (reported to be about 15 of them) to walk around the field and pick up glass and bottle caps — handfuls of this dangerous trash.  I was told that it was different colored glass in various locaions around the field so it wasn't just one recently-broken bottle.  Some of the glass showed signs of being out in the elements for a while.

      Virtually every park that I visit in other jurisdictions looks better than James Park.  And how much again are our property taxes? 

      Total lack of priorities — waste money on silly gimmicks like yellow bracelets for bicycles parked legally but not to someone's liking (when there are not enough racks anyway) but leave the parks looking worse than cow pastures.  Fund duplicative services like a youth defender program (when we already pay for a public defender) but expect residents to walk around and pick up glass shards and big pieces of glass so their children don't sever a femural artery if they fall while playing soccer.

      If I need to clean up the parks, I'll do it to keep the children playing there safe.  But I expect a reduction in my property taxes to reflect that the city is no longer responsible for the upkeep of its parks except maybe to mow the nasty weeds. 

  3. Who is in charge of upkeep and maintenance?

    Much of the problem that we now see around us regarding the deplorable condition of City properties stems back to when the former City Manager (rember her?)  chose to reorganize the various city departments to her own liking and model. One of the departments that took a hit was Facilities Management, a well-run operation headed by the late Max Rubin that was charged with both maintenance and supervising or directing most of the Capital improvement programs.

    Max ended up in charge of Civil Defense and emergency Services and, when the infamous early retirement program was initiated, Max and many of his superintendants left the City. The program initially went to Dave Jennings of Public Works, but when he also took the early retirement option and left, his successor refused this added responsiblity and the unit, now diminshed, fell under Doug Gaynor's supervision.

    Little by little there has been far less maintenance so that preventive maintenace, which Max had organized with a computerized data base, has virstually gone away and, much like the pattern that other governmental agencies have taken, the only work done is that which arises when conditions are dangerous and/or of an emergency nature.

    If this sounds like the pension crisis where only present payments are funded but never those needed for future benefits or payouts, consider that this is the mentality that now pervades our local, state and federal agencies and governments.

    Bill's article notes that "With budgets severely constrained the past few years because of declining revenue during the recession and rising pension and health care costs, aldermen have tried to hold down spending on capital projects.". Allowing them to do just that is part of the problem. Who has been advocating any repairs or other work and why have staff and the City Manager allowed the deterioration to occur until such time as it will cost us much more and to have to prioritize those items, as well?


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