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Council Bytes: Highlights From the Nov. 12 City Council Meeting


Two agenda items drew a crowd that packed Council chambers on Nov. 12: the proposed Chase Bank branch with drive-through at Gross Point Road and Crawford Avenue and the already-decided Northwestern parking deck and visitors’ center at the curve of Sheridan Road.

Despite overwhelming public sentiment against those projects, both passed their current hurdles easily, as did the remainder of the agenda facing Council.

Receiving no public input at all, the budgeted $800,000 repairs to the Sherman Avenue Garage continued apace with the approval of a professional consultant to oversee the project. Completed in 2006, said City chief financial officer Marty Lyons, the garage began shedding chunks of its façade last year.

An analysis of the problem provided good news, said Paul D’Agostino, Superintendent of Parks, Forestry and Facilities Management: “The repairs will not be that expensive.” Including the consulting contract approved that night, the City will have spent over $200,000 so far.

Meanwhile, the cause of the problem is unknown. The City is not optimistic that it can get a contribution toward the repairs from the materials manufacturer, the contractor, or anyone else involved in erecting the six-year-old structure. The retail tenants served by the garage will not contribute, but, Mr. D’Agostino said, residents of Sherman Plaza will be contributing about 17 percent of the cost, based upon the garage’s maintenance agreement.

The City voted to change janitorial services for most large City office space, from Elk Grove Village’s Total Building Services to Chicago’s Smith Maintenance Company.

The change was made despite the fact that the Civic Center “never looked better” than it has since TBS took over cleaning, Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said. Doug Gaynor, the City’s Director of Parks, said “service is one thing, cost is another,” and that significant savings could be realized by splitting the contract.

TBS will continue to clean the Main Branch Library, with Smith taking over the rest. Sticking with TBS for all buildings would have cost about $204,000. Splitting the contract will cost about $200,000. The City hopes the Civic Center will continue to look as good.

As the weather turns toward winter and the Christmas tree stands in Fountain Square, one business is already looking to next spring. Pret A Manger appeared before Council seeking a permit for a sidewalk cafe. In order to put tables on the sidewalk, a restaurant must first submit plans and get a permit. Pret A Manger’s permit met a minor roadblock, however, as the streetscape project on Church Street changes the sidewalk configuration at Sherman Avenue and Church Street, right in front of the business.

Confusion briefly reigned as staff recommended proceeding with the Sherman Avenue part of the café  and then coming back with an amended plan for Church Street. Council, led by Ald. Rainey and Fourth Ward alderman Don Wilson, thought returning with an amended plan for the café on both streets would be better. It is not like the tables will go out anytime soon, they said. At issue is one table on the Church side which will have to be removed because it would be too close to a newly planted tree.

The item was held and will return.

Alden Estates sought permission to increase its allotted number of skilled beds to its full compliment of 99 beds. Skilled beds generate more income than sheltered beds, and permits for such beds are issued by the state. Allowing Alden the flexibility to shift between skilled and sheltered beds was not controversial. A request to limit the number of beds that must be reserved for Evanston Medicaid patients, however, was.

The current ordinance requires that eight beds be reserved for Evanston Medicaid patients. Accordinfg to both Randi Schullo of Alden, and the letter submitted to the City by Alden’s attorney Steve Friedland, Alden “is not subject to this sort of condition in any other long term care facility it operates.” Evanston, through zoning ordinance, requires more of Alden than other communities require, they said.

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, and Ald. Rainey both expressed a hesitation to change the requirement. They agreed, however, to introduce the ordinance and review statistics showing the number of Evanston residents served by Alden. At the next meeting, the number of Evanston beds will be reviewed and a decision made.

On the Chase Bank issue, Council voted to lift the restriction against drive throughs for the parcel in question. The matter goes next to the Zoning Board of Appeals. Chase Bank is a long way from being approved, but the drive-through hurdle has been cleared.

Finally, the super green Walgreens on Chicago got a tweak. Original plans called for 26-foot windmills in the parkway along Chicago Avenue, but upon further review it was found that that height was not sufficient. Walgreens asked for, and quickly received approval for, an amendment allowing for 30-foot windmills.

At the end of the meeting, during call of the wards, Ald. Holmes had a message to all the residents who wrote emails and appeared before Council only to watch as Council voted the other way. “It is hard for citizens to understand that we listen and hear,” she said. She received “tons of emails... but we don’t always agree.” Council has to make decisions in the best interest of the entire City and not just individual communities, she said.





 

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