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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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City Council discusses water fund, parks updates for 2024 Capital Improvement Program

Daily file photo by Jacob Wendler
Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center. City Council approved the introduction of an ordinance that would raise water and sewer rates by 17.5%.

Evanston City Council discussed funding recommendations for improving the city’s water infrastructure, parks and recreational facilities at a special meeting Monday. 

The projects are part of the proposed 2024 Capital Improvement Program. Monday’s meeting was the first time councilmembers discussed the CIP for the upcoming year. The request for the 2024 CIP came in at $111 million dedicated toward infrastructure projects citywide, an increase from $92.5 million in 2023. 

The Water Fund and Parks and Recreation updates are two of the biggest costs on the 2024 CIP. The proposed 2024 CIP budgets $27.7 million for street resurfacing, water main and sewer costs, and $10.6 million and $16.3 million for parks and city facilities respectively.

For the Water Fund, Water Production Bureau Chief Darrell King recommended replacing 500 lead service lines each year starting in 2027, increasing aging water main replacements and setting aside at least $5.8 million in reserved cash balance for the Water Fund. They plan to offset any possible cash outflows.

In order to reach the fund’s goals, King proposed yearly water rate increases through 2034, which would result in a 68% increase in the average customer’s water and sewer bill from 2023 to 2029.

Ald. Krissie Harris (2nd) expressed concerns about the increase in water and sewer bill costs. 

“I’ve seen that my ward has a high number of (people) about to be cut off (from) water, and I worry with the pending increase what that will look like in heavily minority-based areas,” Harris said. 

King noted that the increases will not impact residents on the affordable water and sewer rate. The affordable rate is available to Evanston residents who are determined income-qualified for the Access Evanston Program. The Access Evanston Program is for residents over 65 or under the age of 65 with a disability, who also have an income of $35,000 or less for a one-person household or $60,000 or less for a two-person household.

Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) supported the maintenance and improvements, saying that water and sewer services are “one of the most fundamental services of government.” He said repairing water main breaks only when they happen is “not a good policy.” He recommended the city follow Kings plan to regularly invest in repairing aged water mains. 

“What we’re talking about here gets us back on the track of maintaining our infrastructure,” Nieuwsma said.

Robert Bush, president of the Parks and Recreation Board, requested that the council commit at least 5% of its nearly $400 million budget to improving the city’s parks. Much of the board’s CIP funding request would go toward renovating the city’s 11 legacy parks, or parks that haven’t received major improvements in over 26 years. 

“We are truly at a crisis,” Bush said. “Public Works has identified any number of pieces of equipment, benches, sidewalks that pose significant hazards to the public.”

The Parks and Recreation Board also requested funding to add staff members. The department does not have enough employees to maintain the existing parks and install new equipment, Bush said.

As the council moves forward with plans for the CIP, Ald. Thomas Suffredin (6th) and Nieuwsma added that it should consider funding facilities that have the potential to draw in revenue to reinvest into the parks. 

“The places where we charge are the places where we should invest,” Suffredin said. “Before kids get to high school, (parks are) one of the only ways that kids from around the city interact. So it’s really important that we make sure that we’ve got facilities all over that are usable in different weather conditions and that are rentable by organizations.”

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Twitter: @LilyOgburn

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