City to cut back on snow removal

What snow removal costs the city
December 2, 2008 8:47:38 PM PST
On Monday, the city of Chicago's full fleet of snowplows and trucks hit the streets to combat the winter conditions. Exactly how much did that cost?

Commissioner Mike Picardi of the Streets and San. Department breaks it down:

  • $143,000: equipment
  • $295,000: salt
  • $51,000: workers
  • The total cost for an inch or two of snow-- $490,000. Picardi says the city is a victim of its own success because residents expect instantaneous snow removal. That's a challenge in this budget environment, he says.

    To cut costs, Streets and Sanitation will now plow side streets during the day on weekdays to avoid overtime costs.

    Picardi said crews only used a "light spread" of salt on side streets to save money Monday. Main streets received a more thorough coating.

    Because the city is locked in 2-year contract, it pays $40/ton for salt. Some other municipalities are paying $140/ton.

    Last year city used 500,000 tons of salt. The snow removal for the entire winter cost $27 million, which was $7 million over budget- but there were 62-inches of snow.). This year, $20 million has been budgeted.

    In some cases - it will take longer to get snow cleared from chicago's side streets this winter.

    The city's trying to save money by scaling back on snow removal. But that plan has triggered a blizzard of criticism.

    You know times are tough when even Chicago Mayor Richard Daley is talking about the need to cut back on snow removal. After all, it was the blizzard of '79 that did in Mayor Bilandic.

    The side streets were looking pretty good Monday night. But if we get a big storm, the city says they may just have to be messy for a while.

    In this tough economy, we may have to lower our expectations.

    "We've become victims of our own success, but this high standard comes at a very high cost," Picardi said.

    To contain costs, the city is using a lighter spread of salt on side streets this winter.

    For Monday's snowfall, it pulled trucks off side streets at 3 p.m. to avoid overtime.

    The Lakeview neighborhood, where Beth and Tom Nelson live, looked OK Monday, but they fear how messy it'll get this winter under these rules.

    "If it's anything like last winter, it would be a complete disaster... so many days we had to dig out, dig out, push the car," said Beth Nelson.

    And what about safety?

    "You might potentially have some slips and falls... potential auto accidents because of not proper salting or proper shoveling," said Ald. Tom Tunney, (D) 44th Ward.

    But while concerned, Alderman Tunney says there's not much choice. Every city department is being forced to cut back, and one of the easiest ways to save is on overtime.

    Last year, the city spent $27 million on snow removal. This year, it's aiming to bring that number down to $20 million.


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