Council debates proposed budget increases

Sara Peck

To cut or not to cut – that was the question at Monday’s City Council budget workshop, where aldermen sparred over several budgeted programs in the Capital Improvement Plan, including a running path and four new public restrooms at beach entrances.

These projects, proposed as part of a “Lakefront Master Plan,” would cost more than $8 million. Other initiatives threatened by the city’s tightened budget include a new roof for the Civic Center, the West Evanston Plan and renovating the Robert Crown Center, 1700 Main St.

Construction of a walkway from Church Street to Lee Street, adjacent to a proposed bike path, would cost $1.2 million, said Evanston Finance Director Martin Lyons.

The four new restrooms on Lee Street, Greenwood Street, Clark Street and South Boulevard would cost $7 million combined. The existing facilities do not meet standards mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act, are poorly located and are closed for most of the year, said Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd).

“How many parks have we renovated in the past 10 years? Thirty or 35,” she said. “There’s been no attention paid to the lakefront.”

Ald. Edmund Moran (6th) said he did not support the construction on the lakefront, since it obstructs the existing view of the lake and can be incredibly costly.

“It seems like that’s an awful lot of money for a walking path,” he said. “We’re talking about big money. No one has come to the meetings and asked for new bathrooms. There is no need for them.”

Lyons said possible renovations to the Robert Crown Center will be more fully addressed at the January meeting of the Human Services Committee.

A new Civic Center roof will cost a minimum of $2.7 million. The center was not originally included in the Capital Improvement Plan, which accounted for this estimate’s significant increase from previous projections.

Ald. Steve Bernstein (4th) and mayoral candidate Ald. Elizabeth Tisdahl (7th) questioned the cost, which Lyons attributed to increased overhead profit insurance and “general conditions” of the building. Lyons guessed that in the last four years, Evanston has spent about $1.1 million on estimates for city projects.

Aldermen discussed pushing several projects back in anticipation of a more favorable financial situation. Lyons said several “small landscaping projects” were removed from the Capital Improvement fund and postponed to accommodate the cost of the Civic Center roof.

The final budget will be up for approval on Jan. 9.

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