Salaries, safety issues could be raised at meeting

Breanne Gilpatrick

The Evanston City Council could vote to increase the salaries of several city officials tonight, a proposal that has drawn criticism from both residents and aldermen.

Marina construction, fire sprinkler requirements and concerns about the McCormick Boulevard project also are on tonight’s agenda.

The council is scheduled to vote on salary increases for the aldermen, mayor, city clerk, township supervisor and township assessor. The city’s Compensation Committee approved the salary increases in July, and they would take effect after the city elections in April.

The aldermen work part-time and earn $10,000 a year. Some receive more compensation than others depending on their health insurance coverage. Alds. Joseph Kent (5th) and Elizabeth Tisdahl (7th) don’t receive health insurance through the city.

One plan would raise the aldermen’s salary to $10,600 to compensate for inflation if the benefits system remains the same. Another plan would increase salaries to $15,000 but would require aldermen to pay higher insurance premiums.

Tisdahl said she is struggling to decide.

“I certainly agree that they all work very had and it would be impossible to pay them what they’re worth,” Tisdahl said. “But we do have a budget crisis.”

Ald. Steven Bernstein (4th) said he is opposed to increasing compensation for aldermen because he does not think it’s necessary.

“For me it’s an extension of public service,” Bernstein said. “You don’t do this for the money.”

Sprinkler law for greek houses

The Planning and Development Committee will discuss an ordinance to require dorms, Greek houses and hospitals, among other buildings, to install fire sprinkler systems within five years.

The ordinance would be the only law requiring fire sprinklers in Greek housing. Because most individual fraternity and sorority chapters hold the leases on their houses, Northwestern can’t require them to install sprinklers. A state law passed in August requires sprinklers in college dorms but excludes Greek houses.

Although safety is a major concern, Bernstein said the new mandate would be expensive.

“Obviously we would like every building as safe as it can be so that means you sprinkler every building,” Bernstein said. “But we’re not a new community. We’ve got a lot of old buildings.”

council could end marina study

The council also is scheduled to approve an Oct. 4 Human Services Committee recommendation to terminate investigation of the possibility of building a marina in southeast Evanston.

Residents and aldermen had raised concerns about the environmental impacts, traffic concerns and economic issues associated with the project. The recommendation also directs city staff to investigate a City of Chicago proposal to expand park land, which could include the extension of Lake Shore Drive into Evanston.

Bernstein said the committee recommendation is likely to pass by a wide margin. Six of the nine aldermen spoke in favor of terminating the marina project at the committee meeting.

McCormick Project on hold

The council also will discuss an ordinance to purchase three parcels of land for the McCormick Boulevard reconstruction project.

Many residents voiced concern about the project at the Oct. 11 meeting. The plan would require the removal of 29 trees, including four American elm trees.

But Bernstein said there is no longer pressure to settle the issue because the state funds needed for the project won’t be available until next year because of budget constraints.

Tisdahl said she expects several people to speak at tonight’s meeting about the safety of the project because the site is near several schools.

“Last year a constituent called me upset about a near miss with a student,” Tisdahl said. “And the next day a student was hospitalized after being hit by a car.”

The Administration and Public Works Committee and the Planning and Development Committee meetings begin at 7 p.m., with the full city council meeting at 8:30 p.m.

All meetings are held at the Evanston Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Ave.

Reach Breanne Gilpatrick at [email protected]

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Salaries, safety issues could be raised at meeting