Council OKs $180,000 to buy electric leaf blowers for landscapers

By Bob Seidenberg

Evanston City Council on Monday approved a plan to make a bulk purchase of electric leaf blowers, batteries, chargers and other equipment to help local landscapers who have had difficulty making the transition away from gas leaf blowers banned by the city since last year.

Council members voted 8-0 to allocate $180,000 toward the purchase – adding $100,000 to city staff’s original request – in an effort to reach more small businesses.

Local landscapers, many from the city’s normally low-profile Hispanic community, have sought a reprieve from the city’s ban on gas- or propane-powered leaf blowers.

At the March 11 City Council meeting, council members voted 5-4 to reject landscapers’s request for a three-week pause in enforcing the ban on gas-powered machines at the start of the landscaping season.

How the program would work

The city staff proposal approved Monday calls for the city to use the allocated funds to make bulk purchases of electric leaf blowing equipment through three companies.

Officials would then work with the companies to develop a voucher program so the local landscapers could buy the equipment directly while the city is billed the cost, explained Cara Pratt, the city’s sustainability and resilience manager, in a memo and presentation to the council at Monday’s meeting.

Ninth Ward Council Member Juan Geracaris, as well as City Clerk Stephanie Mendoza, Evanston’s first Latina city clerk, worked with local landscapers and officials, providing translation services and helping them navigate through the program.

Geracaris, participating remotely in the meeting, spoke of the “extra stress and strain” the process has had “on our small-business owners and especially their family members who are brought in to help translate and navigate our systems.”

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