Evanston city staff says it will prioritize infrastructure in 2019-2020 year


Christopher Vazquez/Daily Senior Staffer

Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th) at Saturday’s city council meeting. Fleming asked whether city council had the funds to implement the plan.

Sneha Dey, Assistant City Editor

Aldermen emphasized the need for infrastructure investment, one of several city goals previously set for the 2019-2020 year, at Saturday’s special council meeting.

Lara Biggs, the city engineering and capital planning bureau chief, said no long-term plan currently exists to address infrastructure needs. Biggs said the city will implement a plan for a number of facilities and parks that need renovations in the 2019-2020 year.

According to Biggs, the city currently invests in building systems required for operation and facilities with critical life safety issues. Biggs said the city works closely with the Evanston Environmental Association on infrastructure projects to prioritize sustainability.

According to city documents, the Robert Crown Community Center, the Lorraine J. Morton Civic Center and the Noyes Cultural Arts Center, among others, could use substantial investment.

Maintenance staff report that many city public parks are not safe and require the most maintenance, Biggs said. According to Biggs, the Parks, Recreation & Community Services Department restores one of the city’s 75 parks a year, and addresses smaller issues as they arise. She said the city is behind schedule and should be manually restoring at least three parks annually.

“We’re just running from park problem to park problem to deal with things,” Biggs said. “The process… is very reactive.”

In the 2019-2020 year, Biggs said the department will speak with community members to gauge community demands for parks.

In addition to infrastructure, the city had three other goals — city financing, job creation and development, and affordable housing — in fiscal year 2019-2020. Aldermen unanimously approved a motion to prioritize equity and empowerment as a fourth goal at Saturday’s council meeting.

Ald. Judy Fiske (1st) emphasized the need for a long-term plan and a comprehensive assessment of all city infrastructure. She said a plan will allow city staff to see where revenue is needed.

“Tied in with all of this is revenue. We want to take care of our buildings,” Fiske said. “There’s not the revenue to do it, but we can find it. We just have to be a little bit more creative.”

Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th) recognized a need to respond to life-threatening issues, but said creating a plan would let the city work on bigger projects.

Fleming expressed concern over whether the city would implement a plan. She asked city staff to consider investing in a park district, so the city can continuously maintain the parks.

“We have a lot of repairs, we don’t have a lot of money,” Fleming said. “(When we ask), ‘Are we going to repair this park or are we going to fix the street?’ … Almost every time, the streets win.”

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