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 $800,000 settlement over Fountain Square leaks, discusses leaf blower ordinance amendments

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Daily File Photo by Shun Graves
The City Council approved the $800,000 settlement with Copenhaver Construction and Christopher Burke Engineering over Fountain Square leaks.

City Council unanimously approved the $800,000 settlement with Copenhaver Construction and Christopher B. Burke Engineering over the Fountain Square defects and discussed two amendments to the leaf blower ordinance Monday night. 

Council also heard an update about Envision Evanston, a community driven project to create a comprehensive plan that reflects a shared vision for the future of Evanston. 

In 2017, the city of Evanston awarded $5.9 million to Copenhaver Construction and $345,000 to Christopher B. Burke Engineering to rebuild Fountain Square.

When the fountain went into operation, it had massive leaks. The city determined this was because the wrong valves had been installed. In 2022, the city found the cost of repairs to be at $5 million and sued the construction companies.

On Monday, City Council unanimously approved a $800,000 settlement with Copenhaver Construction and Christopher Burke Engineering. Copenhaver Construction will pay $475,000 and Christopher Burke Engineering will pay $325,000 to the city. 

“I would like to get a full accounting for the public of what transpired going forward,” Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) said. “This was very expensive and a big project and everyone’s been talking about it for a while and there’s very little information about it in (the settlement).”

Council also introduced two amendments to the Leaf Blower Ordinance. One amendment requires all landscapers to register with the city and the other extends gas-powered leaf blower exceptions from only city-owned athletic fields to all athletic fields. 

Along with the introduced amendments, the ordinance requested additional funding of $122,000 from the general reserve to help nine additional Evanston-based leaf blowers buy electric equipment. Currently, all Sustain Evanston funds are exhausted. 

“I think making the choice to dip into reserves for this is a pretty serious decision that as much as I would like to put this conversation behind us forever isn’t worth rushing into,” Ald. Thomas Suffredin (6th) said.

Ald. Devon Reid (8th) said the language of the athletic field amendment should define what an athletic field is because “in my backyard if I put up a volleyball post, is that an athletic field?”

President of the Canal Shores Golf Course Association Matt Rooney urged Council against removing the exception for golf courses because electric equipment would not provide the power needed nor make financial sense for the golf course, putting it at a competitive disadvantage.

“We know that the ordinance puts our landscapers at a competitive disadvantage and we were fine with that,” Reid said. “I just don’t understand why we’re not fine with it potentially (with golf courses).”

Throughout the course of the ban, city staff made several adjustments to the operation of the ordinance including removing the requirement of photo and video evidence for enforcement of the ordinance, according to the ordinance’s memorandum. The reporting and citation process has previously resulted in people harassing landscaping workers, local landscapers have told City Council.

Public Health Manager for the Public Health Services Department Greg Olsen said the enforcement of the usage of photo and video for 311 complaints about leaf blowers was “unduly burdensome” due to many submissions of unrelated offenses.

Due to increased outreach, Olsen also said the number of complaints about leaf blowers are less than half of what they were last year at this time. 

“Leaf blowers have turned into a much more complicated thing than I think many of us thought it would be,” Olsen said. “Our enforcement helped reveal some of these unforeseen issues.”

An update on Envision Evanston 2045 was given by Neighborhood & Land Use Planner Meagan Jones. The completed first phase, which began in February, gathered the community’s lived experiences and sought to review existing city plans to establish goals for the future, Jones said. The survey they distributed had a participation rate of about 35%, while their workshop had a rate of 3% of the population, Jones said. 

Some common areas of improvement mentioned included infrastructure maintenance, preservation of community, vibrant public spaces, public safety, economic development, environmental sustainability and community representation, she said.

“Some of the specific comments that we heard included ‘Public transportation in Evanston is flawed in every way imaginable,’” Jones said. “I am deeply concerned about the lack of affordable housing for young families that are looking to put roots and buy a house here.”

Jones said Envision Evanston is looking into the second phase and has established preliminary goals that include establishing a strong local economy, increasing housing diversity, protecting natural resources, celebrating culture and creating equitable opportunities for all. 

Jones said Envision Evanston intends to create more targeted discussions. 

“(We need to be) making sure that we’re hearing what people are saying and ensuring that is something that they are seeing come about,” Jones said.

Email: [email protected] 

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