Council discusses natural gas purchase, taxes

Jia You

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Northwestern will administer a natural gas purchase for the City of Evanston, the Evanston City Council approved Tuesday night.

“It’s just been a great partnership with the city,” Ald. Delores Holmes (5th) said. “This would be to the advantage of the city.”

The University will manage the purchase of 30 percent of the natural gas the city uses starting May 1, according to a memorandum. The University’s service comes at no additional cost.

The deal will save the city about $8,000 monthly, according to a cost analysis conducted by the administration and public works committee. As one of the largest users of natural gas in the state, Northwestern is able to purchase natural gas at a wholesale rate much lower than that currently paid by the city.

“We’re merging the needs we have with their needs, so we’re buying a larger amount of natural gas together,” City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said.

The natural gas purchased will power 16 city-owned buildings, including the police department, fire stations and community centers, Bobkiewicz said.

At the annual town meeting Tuesday night, Town Supervisor Patricia Vance announced Evanston will not raise property tax in fiscal year 2011-12.

“The township of Evanston continues to be in sound fiscal health,” Vance said. She added the town has neither a deficit nor a projected deficit in this fiscal year, and hence she will not propose any changes to property taxes.

She said the combined taxes residents pay to the Evanston government will remain at about five cents per $100 of a property’s value.

“It’s a good thing,” said Evanston resident Betty Ester, a 65-year-old retiree. “I know they need money for fees and services, and that money comes from taxes. But it’s at a point now where the residents can’t bear it anymore.”

However, with the city still suffering from the recession, she fears the government will eventually raise property taxes.

The council also approved guidelines regarding sponsorship, advertising and strategic supplier relationships for the city. The new policy will allow greater solicitation of strategic supplier partnerships and sponsorships through advertising.

Ald. Judy Fiske (1st) opposed the motion, which passed 6-1, on the grounds that advertising could damage Evanston’s image.

“I think advertising will be very intrusive in our environment,” Fiske said. “We worked for years to try to control advertising and billboards. I just don’t think this is in keeping with the image we want to send forth about Evanston.”

The other council members did not share this view, including Ald. Mark Tendam (6th).

“Advertisements are … very helpful at illuminating the space,” he said.

jiayou2014@u.northwestern.edu

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