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

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

The Daily Northwestern

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City Council approves $180,000 to purchase electric leaf blower equipment

Daily file photo by Shun Graves
After City Council rejected an effort from Ald. Juan Geracaris (9th) to pause the city’s gas leaf blower ban, it approved funding to purchase electric leaf blowers for local landscaping businesses at its Monday meeting.

After rejecting a pause on Evanston’s gas leaf blower ban two weeks ago, City Council approved $180,000 for city staff to purchase electric leaf blower equipment in bulk at its Monday night meeting. 

The authorization aims to help local landscapers transition to electric leaf blowers in compliance with city regulations. 

After successfully applying for a grant through the Sustain Evanston program, landscapers can receive leaf blowers paid for by the city, according to Cara Pratt, Evanston’s sustainability and resilience manager. Applications are processed on a first-come, first-serve basis, she told The Daily.

The original proposal allocated $80,000 to purchase leaf blowers, batteries, chargers and other equipment, but councilmembers added another $100,000 during their discussion.

“I’m hoping that will give Cara (Pratt) and her staff some flexibility to make sure we’re helping all the small businesses that need help and speed up the process,” Ald. Juan Geracaris (9th) said. “We’re quickly entering spring cleanup season.” 

Despite increasing the supply of available electric leaf blowers, several city officials identified the grant application process as a major hurdle for local landscapers, many of whom are members of the Latine community. 

“We found that the bottleneck of the process to become eligible (for grants) is the registration,” Geracaris said. 

Prior to the meeting, Spanish versions of the application were not available, according to City Clerk Stephanie Mendoza. Mendoza said her office has taken on helping Spanish-speaking landscaping firms apply for city grants. 

The application process is extensive, Mendoza added. She said landscapers often need to become registered entities, obtain liability insurance and furnish certificates of insurance to complete the process. 

“We started helping a company two weeks ago, and today we were finally able to get everything through,” she said. 

During the meeting, city staff said they would work to make translated versions of the Sustain Evanston application available. 

Ald. Thomas Suffredin (6th) touched on changing the enforcement scheme for the gas leaf blower ban, which also came up during the March 11 meeting.

“How do we put a bow on this — tie penalties and enforcement to the property owner rather than (the) landscaping company, get compliant equipment in the hands of companies doing business in Evanston, and save money on equipment?” Suffredin said.

After Suffredin posed that question, Ald. Devon Reid (8th) made a motion to set time aside during City Council’s June 24 meeting to work on more permanent adjustments to enforcing the gas leaf blower ban. The current reporting and citation process has resulted in people harassing landscaping workers, local landscapers have told City Council. 

Monday night’s discussion about language access and Sustain Evanston application barriers show areas where the city needs to improve in helping local landscapers struggling to transition to electric leaf blowers, Geracaris said.

“There’s a big piece of education that we have to do here to demystify fees and licensing,” he said. “These are just folks that want to work, and they’ve been doing this for years, and they did not know all these hoops that they had to jump through.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @william2tong

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