EVANSTON — There were only two items on the agenda for discussion by the Evanston City Council during the Tuesday, March 9, work session: Evanston Youth Club for Boys and Girls and the Evanston Parks and Recreation Department. Mayor Kent Williams reminded all present that no decisions would be made, as the meeting was a work session and only for discussion.
Evanston Youth Club CEO Holly Slade-West provided the council with a summary of the history of the local youth club from its beginnings up to the present.
“We just wanted to come and let the council know what we are doing and thank you for your support,” Slade-West said. “We are not asking for an increase this year, just for the same amount of $45,000, plus payment of our utilities in the old facility. It costs $35,000 monthly to operate the club. Through fundraising and community support we now pay all of the cost of our new facility. We are also planning to expand and already have raised 60% of the cost for that expansion.”
The club plans to build next to its current facility on 6th Street near the Overthrust Ballfields. The expansion will include a kitchen, garage work area, meeting room, art room and two classrooms, among other upgrades. Slade-West said they would still like to keep the 4th Street facility open as well. She said the club will operate a food truck starting in April, and the youth will sell tacos and treats as a fund raiser.
Slade-West said that from an early average of 30 participants, the club grew to 300 regular participants in 2020. The club is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. and on many Saturdays. Slade-West said the club provides assistance with academics, avoiding drugs and alcohol, physical and social health and a focus on the arts.
“Our graduation rate for Hispanic high school seniors who regularly attend the club is 82%,” she said, “and, sadly, the lowest graduation rate is for white males. Eighty percent of the kids who come to the club are at or below the poverty level. This service is very important to these youth. We are just asking for your continued support at the same rate.”
Kevin Kallas, president of the youth club’s board of directors, also addressed the council. He apologized that they did not come before the council last year when asking for an increase.
“The youth club board was made aware that it was important for the board and director to come personally to give the council an update on the youth club so that is why we are here tonight,” Kallas said. “Holly does a much better job of providing information than I can, but I just want to thank you for your support.”
Mayor Williams told Slade-West, “Originally, I did not understand this program. I realize now its importance for a large part of our community. At our next budget discussion, we will look seriously at the funding.”
Councilman David Welling said, “The club is a great bang for our buck, and you have great staff and a great program.”
Evanston Parks and Recreation District Director Scott Ehlers was next and provided the council with a list of capital projects for 2021 in order of importance. Under administration of the recreation center, he listed the restoration of the gym floor and indoor track as top priority at a cost of $78,610. Ehlers said he placed it above replacing the fitness room floor ($40,000), which is next on his list, as the gym floor and indoor track receive heavier use.
“At the golf course, we really need to replace the snowplow as the current one has been repaired and pieced together many times. The cost is $8,000,” Ehlers said.
Ehlers then outlined the priorities for the parks in the city. A new excavator for $39,500 was at the top of the list with concrete trail repairs at Bear Meadows ($50,000) as the second priority and number three on the list was recoating and repair of the surface at the tennis courts at a cost of $80,000 (four courts at $20,000 each). This estimate would be just to repair the cracks, not tear up the surface and completely redo the court, which would be really expensive, Ehlers said.
Councilman Tib Ottley asked if the school district would be able to help with the tennis courts, as they also use them for classes. Ehlers did not know if they would help on the cost.
Last on Ehlers’ list of capital projects was a new turf sweeper for the cemetery, costing $20,000. Ehlers explained that this sweeper picks up all the junk laying on the ground and is a top priority for the cemetery crew.
“On page two of what I gave you is the list of fees the Golf Course Advisory Board approved in February 2021. There will be no increase in fees this year; they will be the same as last year. I just want to say, we get a lot of golfers coming from Utah, spending money in Evanston and helping our economy,” Ehlers said.