City budget, future of elms to be decided at meeting

Stephanie Chen and Stephanie Chen

Evanston City Council likely will pass the 2005-06 budget tonight after months of discussion and debate.

Although many of the issues in the $176 million budget have been resolved, inoculating the city’s elm trees against Dutch elm disease is still up for discussion, said Ald. Edmund Moran (6th). The council also will consider the capital improvement plan for 2005-10 and a cigarette tax, as well as discuss a proposed condominium development on Emerson Street.

At the Feb. 7 budget hearing, the council proposed a plan to inoculate all “signature and standalone” elms — about 1,300 of the city’s 3,400 elms. Standalone elms are trees isolated enough that they cannot acquire the disease through their roots, a type of transmission the vaccination cannot prevent. Signature trees are those deemed especially large, old or majestic — a definition some aldermen and speakers said could be problematic.

Moran said whatever decision the council makes tonight will likely leave some residents dissatisfied.

“I really don’t know which way it will go,” Moran said. “It’s an important issue, but I also know people that think the issue has been blown out of proportion.”

Virginia Mann, co-founder of the local organization To Rescue Evanston Elms, said she will be at the meeting with 50 to 100 Evanston residents to support inoculating the trees. TREE members have spent weeks flyering neighborhoods, tying ribbons on trees and voicing their opinions at council meetings.

Nearly 100 Evanston residents came to a council meeting last September to support the elms, said Mann, who also is running for Sixth Ward alderman against Moran.

“From talking with people, it seems pretty clear most people want their trees injected,” Mann said. “Residents will will turn out for the trees.”

Mann said she believes the city will either pass a partial or full vaccination plan, though the city also could vote for no injections.

But partial injections will not be cost effective, she said, and there would be problems deciding which trees to inject.

“It doesn’t make any sense to do half a program,” she said. “If it’s right for the largest tree, it’s right for all them.”

Moran said the council also will continue to discuss the rehabilitation of Sargent Park under the capital improvement plan, which will cost $98.5 million over the next five years. There also needs to be further discussion about expanding the children’s section of the Evanston Public Library, Moran said.

The council also likely will pass the proposed cigarette tax, Moran said. The proposal, which would double the tax to $0.32 per pack, will bring needed revenue into the city, he said.

In addition to the budget, the council will continue discussion of a condominium development at 1228 Emerson St. The latest plan, calling for a 49-unit building, was met with opposition from neighborhood residents at the Feb. 14 council meeting. The developer, Ferris Homes, will present a new design for the property at the Planning and Development Committee meeting.

The Administration and Public Works Committee and the Planning and Development Committee will meet 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 Stephanie Chen at [email protected].