Evanston aldermen Monday night decided to trim nearly $1.4 million from this year’s capital spending plans to keep its unabated general obligation bond issuance for the year within a staff-recommended $10 million cap.

That cap doesn’t include planned spending for the new Robert Crown Community Center or public library renovations.

The aldermen voted to defer a $600,000 project to repaint the Emerson-Ridge-Green Bay Union Pacific viaduct, $450,000 in repairs at the city’s service center, $275,000 in renovations to the Lovelace Park tennis courts and a $50,000 study to determine what improvements need to be made at the city’s animal shelter.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said the viaduct “looks hideous” now, but went along with the decision to postpone the work there.

The viaduct is owned by the railroad, but it has disclaimed any responsibility for maintaining its appearance.

Aldermen initially debated postponing $900,000 in planned repairs to the Church Street boat ramp but decided to move ahead with that project.

Lara Biggs of the city’s Public Works Agency said the south pier wall at the boat ramp is falling apart and lets sand come into the harbor — which adds to the cost of annual dredging work to keep the boat ramp open.

Parks Director Lawrence Hemingway said boaters using the ramp generate about $200,000 in annual revenue for the city.

That doesn’t fully cover the cost of the ramp, Hemingway indicated. But he said it’s also used for the city’s rescue boats, other lakefront activities and aquatics camps — so it’s essential to the city’s lakefront operation.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said not repairing the boat ramp wall would be “just nuts.”

“It’s like not fixing a roof when the roof is leaking,” she added.

The city is currently conducting a public survey to gauge the popularity of dozens of city programs as it prepares for potential budget cuts next year.

During public comment Monday, aldermen heard from several people who spoke in favor of maintaining the city’s counseling programs for youths and young adults and the summer youth jobs program.

As the meeting drew to a close, Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, said those programs traditionally support people who are underserved in the community.

“We know we’re not going to get rid of those programs,” Braithwaite said, adding that he didn’t want the community to have anxiety about their future.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said he agreed with Braithwaite’s observations, but said the the survey has getten a lot of people talking about what their priorities are, which is important for carrying out the city’s priority-based budgeting process.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1.  Boat ramp fix

    I worked for the Lakefront Service when the boat “harbor” was first built. In the following years, as a resident, I actively use it as a boater.  The original design was to protect the ramp from the Nor Easters which would pound the unprotected ramp.  Little thought was given to the weather coming from the south and the sand it brought. This also affected the entrance to the NU lagoon and it’s cooling system, and that cost millions to fix.   Every year  going back to the late 80’s the “harbor” would need to be dredged,  which was always a seasonal fix. The funds spent in those 30 years has to be a couple of million dollars. To “repair” the south pier and dredge again will be a waste of time, effott, and money.  The solution is to build a riprap wall approximately 100 yards south of the exsisting south pier from the shore straight out about 50 feet past the existing  north wall.  This will offer more protection from the south and put and end to the yearly dredging project.  As a bonus you might end up with a great stretch of beach. I am not an engineer, but I have seen fine working examples along the Lake Michigan lakeshore and elsewhere, and this seems to work well.  If you are going to do it, DO IT RIGHT!

    Cap’n Tony Bach

    Ketchikan, AK

  2. Pass an ordinance

    their is already a City of Evanston ordinance that demands all railroad tracks be fenced. There was another one in 1907-8 that demanded the tracks be elevated above street level. I’m sure the current city council can live up to their predecessors and pass an ordinance, for safety, that these viaducts must be painted. I’m sure they were painted with lead-based paint, which comes off as chips and dust every time a train rumbles by.  Personally, I’d like to see this particular bridge painted, Lincoln and Ridge CTA, and the beautiful old CTA bridge over the canal at Central street too. 

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