Evanston 5th Ward residents say they were ‘blindsided’ by water pumping station plans


File photo by Katie Pach

Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th) at a City Council meeting. The 5th Ward will soon be the site of a contentious water pump facility.

Julia Esparza, Assistant City Editor

In response to the city announcing the construction of a water pumping station in the 5th Ward earlier this month, residents have created a task force to oppose the project.

On Jan. 8, City Council unanimously voted to authorize a 50-year lease and revitalize the lot at 2525 Church Street for “recreational use.” Some 5th Ward residents said they only recently learned about plans to install a water pumping station there to pump and sell water to Morton Grove and Niles, and others close to the site said they were given no notice and no input on the station.

“We’re really tired of people making decisions without (the public’s) vote and there seems to be a lot of that in Evanston,” said Glenn Mackey, a member of the task force whose home sits about 200 feet from the proposed construction.

On Feb. 12, City Council passed a memorandum of understanding explicitly stating the agreement between the city and the Morton Grove-Niles Water Commission to build the pump station on the lot, spurring residents to respond with the creation of a task force. The Feb. 12 resolution stated the city also “intends to develop the (property) with the grading of an athletic field and the construction of a splash pad, picnic shelter, public restrooms, and parking lot.”

An ordinance approved at the the Jan. 8 meeting for the city to lease the land does not mention using the land for a water pump facility. Council voted to lease the property “for multiple reasons and future uses, most notably to expand Beck Park south to Church Street and increase the recreational opportunities in the area for years to come,” according to the document.

Mackey said he and other members have been canvassing the neighborhood for petition signatures, talking to residents of nearby wards and drafting letters to send to state and local politicians.

In a letter obtained by The Daily, the task force wrote to state and local leaders asking for assistance.

The letter also expresses concern with the effects of high and low engine whine from the facility and underground holding tanks for water and bleach compounds. Residents also fear decreasing home values.

Mackey said the decision is unfair to the majority black and low- and fixed-income community.

“(The city) does not seem to share the same consideration given to other areas of the city that don’t have a large senior or African American populace,” Mackey said.

Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th) said the partnership between the city and the Morton Grove-Niles Water Commission has been in the works since 2010. She noted the agreement to sell water to Morton Grove and Niles could bring millions in revenue to the city.

Simmons said the city has wanted to expand its water sales since before she became an alderman last year.

While construction on the facility is set to begin in early March, Simmons said the city still plans on improving facilities by adding Evanston’s first splash pad and a lighted soccer field.

Simmons also said the facility will include a public use bathroom that residents have been requesting, and despite there not being a concrete plan for funding the recreation expansion, the project has been “well-embraced” by residents.

“(The construction) wasn’t an all-of-sudden decision and it didn’t come without much public discussion,” she said.

Mackey voiced opposition to not only the facility’s construction, but also the recreation expansion. He also raised concerns about street parking and lights from the field shining into his home.

Mackey and other 5th Ward residents are collecting support and spreading word about the construction to residents who are still not aware of it.

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