By Bob Seidenberg
With gas-powered leaf blowers on their way out, Evanston officials are moving forward on a financial assistance program to ease the move for local landscape companies to quieter but more expensive electric- powered leaf blowers.
At their May 31 meeting, members of the city’s Economic Development Committee (EDC) voted unanimously to recommend in favor of a financial assistance program for ten local programs, offering initial assistance of $1,500 toward the purchase of machines.
The proposal is next going to the City Council, and could be up for discussion and action as soon as the Monday, June 13th meeting.
Under the proposal, the city would divvy up approximately $30,000 from the city’s Entrepreneurship Grant Program to offer financial assistance to ten landscape maintenance businesses to help them fund the purchase of electric-powered blowers which are typically more expensive than the gas-run.
In November of last year, Evanston City Council members amended the city’s leaf blower ordinance, transitioning from the use of gas-powered leaf blowers to the use of electric leaf blowers by April 1, 2023.
Member of the city’s environmental community have been long seeking the change, citing noise pollution, environmental health issues, as well as the effect on wildlife habits in support of the move to electric-powered blowers.
Representatives of some local landscape companies, meanwhile, have spoken of the greater costs of electric blowers with a commercial grade electric leaf blower running in the $1,500 range, according to one estimate.
At the May 31 EDC meeting, Committee member and Alderperson Bobby Burns, 5th, raised concern whether the $30,000 initially allotted would be enough.
He spoke in favor of the funding goal, though, noting officials had spoken about the need to support a change in behavior to attain the city’s Climate Action Resilience Plan goals. “And this might be the first time we’ve done this as a city aligned with climate action,” he pointed out, “so this is a good start.”
Council member Devon Reid, 8th, said he would like to see a needs assessment conducted along with the financial assistance program, “rather than just handing it (the money) out.”
“If there’s a super successful business that’s expanding and growing and they’re doing good, I don’t know if that’s the best place to spend this money,’” he maintained. “I think it’s better used for the folks who are in the middle ground…who can use the financial assistance.”