Evanston budget hearings wrap up, mental health position slashed

Susan Du, City Editor

Evanston City Council adopted four changes to the proposed city budget for fiscal year 2013, ending deliberations following its Saturday meeting.

Previously scheduled Nov. 13 and 19 budget hearings have been canceled because the issues of contention have been addressed and generally resolved. The modified budget draft still needs to be approved by the full city council to become official.

Changes made to the budget Saturday morning include removing the proposed crisis intervention coordinator position and funneling the $85,000 it would have cost over 10 months into the city manager’s reserve; installing security cameras and lights around Evanston Township High School; and instructing city staff to expand on the 50/50 sidewalk initiative, which will limit the use of asphalt on sidewalks.

Aldermen voted 8-0 on Saturday to follow city manager Wally Bobkiewicz’s suggestion to cut the crisis intervention coordinator position, which he said could be fulfilled by existing programs.

“I’ve heard from at least two other organizations in Evanston who believe they could be of assistance to us, and I think in reflection and partly because of the discussion we had the other evening, my request for the city council would be to remove this $85,000 … allowing me to continue to work with health department staff, with the Mental Health Board, with other providers that we currently fund that are perhaps interested in helping us come up with a larger solution,” Bobkiewicz said Saturday.

Bobkiewicz named Youth Organizations Umbrella and Provena Health, the parent company of Saint Francis Hospital, as the two organizations that offered to help absorb some of the responsibilities of the cut position, although YOU director Seth Green said he was not certain if his staff had the specialization necessary to do the job.

The city’s Mental Health Board originally proposed the need for crisis intervention coordination in the community, and was instructed Saturday to work with the health department staff to create an alternative proposal for addressing that need by January.

Evanston health department director Evonda Thomas said she couldn’t comment on her department’s plan because she recently returned from a trip abroad. However, she said health department staff do not have the time and resources to afford the additional responsibility.

“We really cannot,” Thomas said. “We’ll have to deliberate about that. We’ll have to reconvene and strategize about how we’re going to address the proposed cuts.”